Ready to rumble

WORTHINGTON -- A somewhat peeved Worthington Trojans team will take to the court tonight in their opening round game of the Section 2AAA boys' basketball playoffs against Mankato East Cougars.

WORTHINGTON -- A somewhat peeved Worthington Trojans team will take to the court tonight in their opening round game of the Section 2AAA boys' basketball playoffs against Mankato East Cougars.

The Trojans (15-8), who earned the No. 5 seed are looking to exact revenge on the same Cougars (No. 4) that have knocked the Trojans out of the postseason the last two years.

"I think the first thing is that our kids were a little disappointed that they didn't receive a higher seed," Worthington head coach Ron Vorwald said. "We felt we did enough to earn a higher seed and warrant a home game.

"Because of the lower seed and the fact the Cougars have beaten us the last two years, we'll be playing with a chip on our shoulders," Vorwald added. "The kids want to prove that we're deserving of a higher seed, and the best way to do that is knock them off."

Despite a 67-54 loss to the defending Class A champion Ellsworth Panthers Mar. 6, the Trojans have had a solid season. Coach Vorwald points to the teams' consistency, balanced scoring and ability to win close games on the road as contributing factors in the Trojans success.


"We are playing a more consistent style of basketball this season," Vorwald said. "That consistency has helped us win a lot of close games this season, the kind of games we struggled to win last year. With multiple players averaging in double figures each game, the opposition has difficulty keying on one particular player in the defensive zone."

Adou Omot, Matt King, Travis Meinders, and Mike Vorwald are each averaging about 14 points per game this season for the well-balanced Trojans. Each player is capable of stepping up to handle the load on any given night, and Coach Vorwald is expecting this quartet to pull together in another group effort tonight.

"We have a lot of strong weapons," Vorwald said. "We can score from anywhere on the court, but it has to be a collective effort. Hopefully, we'll get one of those efforts against Mankato East and move through to the second round."

Mankato East (12-14) has had Worthington's number the last few years and opened the 2007-'08 campaign by knocking off Trojans, 59-50, in Worthington.

The Cougars defeated the Trojans, 58-47, in the first round last year and beat the Trojans, 65-56, to open the 2005-'06 postseason.

Despite winning their final two regular-season contests, against Faribault and Albert Lea, respectively, the Cougars have had trouble sustaining momentum over the course of the season -- putting back-to-back victories together just two other times during the year. Three consecutive victories in the middle of the season has been the Cougars' longest streak.

The Cougars appear to live and die on the play of senior forward Jordan Cunningham. When Cunningham, who averages over 20 points per game, is on, the Cougars usually have a chance to win. But when the 6-4 forward is held to a low points total, the Cougars aren't nearly as successful. Still, Vorwald cautions against looking at Mankato East as a one-dimensional team.

"Cunningham is an excellent player, but he also has a good supporting cast," Vorwald said. "They have a good point guard and are a very athletic team at every position."


So how do the Trojans prepare for a Mankato East team that has few chinks in its armor?

"We kind of have to prepare for everything," Vorwald said. "Hopefully, we can get into a good shooting rhythm early and play intelligent defense.

"We're not the same team we were last year, and we're not the same team we were when we started the season," Vorwald added. "We beaten some quality teams at home and on the road, and we've done that with consistency, execution and disciplined defense."

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