Section 2AAA basketball: Explosive New Ulm ends WHS girls season
NEW ULM -- They got the start they wanted. But suddenly, the Worthington Trojans felt the full brunt of a high-powered New Ulm offense Tuesday night in a first-round Section 2AAA girls basketball game.Playing good defense in the half-court and lo...
NEW ULM -- They got the start they wanted. But suddenly, the Worthington Trojans felt the full brunt of a high-powered New Ulm offense Tuesday night in a first-round Section 2AAA girls basketball game.
Playing good defense in the half-court and looking for the fast-break, the Trojans led the Eagles 5-0 early in the first half. Then the Eagles, led by super-shooter Meleah Reinhart, scored the next 16 points. Worthington played from a deficit for the rest of the contest and was held to just 10 points in the entire second half.
Reinhart, the highest-scoring high school basketball player in Minnesota, led second-seeded New Ulm to a 74-34 victory over the seventh-seeded Trojans at New Ulm High School. The result ended Worthington’s season at 16-9 while it improved New Ulm to 22-5 and set the Eagles up for a semifinal game March 4 against Faribault at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
“Boy, they’ve got kids that can play,” said WHS head coach Eric Lindner. “This is going to be their year.”
In an early regular season clash between the Trojans and Eagles, New Ulm earned a convincing 77-39 win. In the section tournament, Worthington had no better success at keeping their opponents’ scoring machine in check. Reinhart, a 5-9 senior guard who can score at ease from 3-point range or on the drive, finished with 34 points -- well above her average of 27.5 points per game.
Sophomore Joey Batt scored 13 points.
Ahmitara Alwal led WHS with nine.
“Once we got in our run, I was more confident,” Reinhart said. “We didn’t come in overconfident because we knew they had gotten better (since the first game). But with our fast guard play, it’s hard to stop us.”
Worthington, a team that likes to apply pressure to opponents all over the court, knew that the Eagles’ speed and ball-handling ability prevented them from manhandling the No.2 seed. A firm half-court defense paid off at first, but before long Reinhart and her purple-clad teammates found holes to exploit.
“You kind of go into the game saying, ‘All right, are we going to take some chances? But when they have good point guards like that, they make you pay,” Lindner said. “I think we did a very good job breaking the press in the first half; we just didn’t finish it on the other end. They’re a very good team. We would’ve had to play perfect.”
Down 5-0, the Eagles led 16-5 before an Alwal 3-point shot cut the margin to 16-8 at the 11-minute mark of the first half. Suddenly, two fast-break layups by Reinhart made it 20-8.
New Ulm, spacing its players well on offense and passing ably against the WHS defense, refused to quit. A Batt 3-pointer made it 23-10. A long Reinhart 3-pointer -- her 18th point -- made it 26-10.
The Trojans’ defenses breached, their focus left them at times. Another 3-pointer by an unguarded Reinhart made it 32-13.
Worthington continued to fight. Alwal’s second 3-point shot of the game brought the visitors to within 14, at 34-20, inside five minutes. But the Eagles outscored them 12-4 for the remainder of the half.
The second half began with a Reinhart 3-point shot. The Trojans were unable to make a noticeable dent the rest of the way.
Lindner was happy to point out afterward that his players didn’t quit. Indeed, they didn’t. But a deeply talented, quick, sharpshooting, team-oriented New Ulm squad was more than the Trojans -- or almost any team on this particular Tuesday night -- could bargain for.
“When we have teamwork, we’re hard to beat,” said Reinhart.
She’d get no argument there.
Worthington 24 34
New Ulm 46 74