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Trojan boy cagers put it together in 77-50 win over Luverne

The Worthington Trojans boys basketball team played excellent team basketball Thursday night in a victory over Luverne

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 Worthington Trojans Jacari Swinea drives through the seam of Luverne Cardinals defense by  Connor Overgaard (22) and Colin Schoeneman (1) during a Thursday evening game.
Worthington Trojans boys basketball player Jacari Swinea drives through Luverne Cardinals defenders Connor Overgaard (22) and Colin Schoeneman (1) Thursday evening at Worthington. Tim Middagh / The Globe
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- One game can make a big difference, and for the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team, Thursday’s 77-50 win over visiting Luverne was one to get excited about. The triumph moved WHS to 4-12 on what has been a frustrating 2021-22 season, and both coaches and players are hoping it will be a sign of good things to come.

It wasn’t just about the victory. Perhaps more importantly, it was about how it was accomplished.

“We finally decided to play as a team. We were passing the ball around, getting good looks,” said 6-0 sophomore guard Kaleb Knothe. “We decided to finally trust each other and play together.”

For a team like Worthington, with a talented mix of seniors, juniors and underclassmen as well as a first-year head coach, putting it all together hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve talked in practice a lot about talking as a team, and not just playing as individuals,” Knothe said. “I think we finally just relaxed, and we’re finally making it work.”

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 Worthington Trojans Marenono Opiew (11) fires a jump shot during a game against visiting Luverne Cardinals Thursday evening.
Trojan Marenono Opiew (11) fires a jump shot against the Luverne Cardinals Thursday evening. Tim Middagh / The Globe
Tim Middagh / The Globe

On Thursday, Worthington jumped out to an 11-0 lead before allowing the Cardinals to pull even at 15-15. The home team didn’t stop playing solid team defense, however, and led 41-28 at halftime as reserve forward Nasim Zeidi converted a running, off-balance layup in the closing seconds.

In the second half, the Trojans maintained their edge, leading by 20 points, 57-37, on a short layin by Cooper McCoy with 10:02 remaining. A 3-point shot by Zachary Hayenga made it 68-43 just over the seven-minute mark.

Late in the game, Worthington played a patient game, smartly protecting its advantage.

Knothe finished with 13 points while dishing out eight assists and making five steals. Abagotte Opiew scored 16 points with seven rebounds. Jacari Swinea scored 12 points, Marenono Opiew scored 11 and Jake Brandner had 10.

McCoy, who had six points, led the Trojans with nine rebounds.

Unofficially, the Trojans converted 54 percent of their field goal attempts.

“We wanted to get after them defensively and get them to make some bad decisions, and I think we did that in the first half. We wanted to share the basketball to find not just an OK look but a really good look,” said head coach CJ Nelson.

“We’re starting to feel more comfortable with each other,” he added. “We’re working harder as a team and I think that’s really helping us. We gotta use this momentum to keep building.”

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One of the things Worthington wanted to do on defense was to limit the Cardinals’ fine outside shooter, 6-4 junior Gannon Ahrendt, who finished with just five points.

Eli Radtke paced Luverne (3-11) with 18 points and Connor Overgaard added 13.

Knothe said his team worked on back-side help and weak-side help defensively. The result, said the sophomore, showed what the team can do.

“And we’re excited. And we’re gonna bring it the next couple of years, too,” he promised.

Luverne 28 50

Worthington 41 77

LUVERNE (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Cole-Kraty 0-0-1-1, Schoeneman 1-0-1-4, T.Cowell 0-1-0-2, Ahrendt 0-2-1-5, Sehr 0-3-1-7, Con.Overgaard 0-4-5-13, Radtke 1-7-1-18. Totals 2-17-10-50.

WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- J.Brandner 0-5-0-10, A.Opiew 1-5-3-16, Knothe 2-3-1-13, McCoy 0-3-0-6, Swinea 0-5-2-12, Z.Hayenga 1-1-0-5, Schreiber 0-1-0-2, M.Opiew 1-4-0-11, Zeidi 0-1-0-2. Totals 5-25-6-77.

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Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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