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Section 2AAA basketball: Trojans boys open section tournament with Mankato East

WORTHINGTON -- Tonight at 7 p.m., the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team opens the Section 2AAA Tournament in Mankato against Mankato East. The Trojans (14-9) enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed, while the Cougars (13-13) are No. 3.

WORTHINGTON -- Tonight at 7 p.m., the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team opens the Section 2AAA Tournament in Mankato against Mankato East. The Trojans (14-9) enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed, while the Cougars (13-13) are No. 3.

But after practice on Monday, Worthington head coach Clint Meyer told his team it’s time to throw out the seeds and just go play some basketball. He thinks his squad matches up well with its first-round opponent.

“East is a long, athletic team,” Meyer said. “I’ve had a chance to see them play a couple of times and I think if we come out and hit some shots early and get the jitters down and take care of the basketball, it should be a very competitive game. We should be able to hold our own.”

The matchup to watch, according to the coach, is going to be down in the post. The Cougars have a pair of talented post players in 6-foot-6 forward Uhana Ochan and 6-4 Damani Hayes, and if the Trojans’ big men can slow them down, that will make all the difference.

“The 6-6 kid is really athletic on the block and can get up off the floor, and the Hayes kid plays inside out and is really strong, hits the three and goes to the free throw line a ton. How we guard in the post and limit their second opportunities will be important.”

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The task of matching up with Uhana and Hayes down low will fall primarily on Worthington post players 6-7 junior Stewart Merrigan and 6-3 junior Tyler Linder. Linder and Merrigan each average over seven rebounds-per game and their ability to stop East from scoring second chance points will be key to the Trojans success.

Looking around the section, the two teams to beat seem to be top-seeded Marshall and No. 2 Waseca who hold identical 23-3 records. The Tigers and Bluejays split a pair of regular season games, with marshall prevailing 78-61 on Jan. 21 in Waseca, and the Bluejays knocking off Marshall 54-50 in a Big South Crossover matchup in Marshall on March 2.

Marshall opens the section tournament by hosting bottom-seeded Hutchinson (3-23), while Waseca hosts No. 7 New Ulm tonight. The fourth first-round matchup is between No. 4 Faribault (14-12) and No. 5 Mankato West (13-13).

“Obviously Marshall and Waseca are going to be tough,” Meyer said. “They split during the regular season. We played (Mankato) West here in the holiday tournament, so we know what they can do. And Faribault has been kinda struggling as of late. I thought we’d be seeing them in the third spot, but they slipped to four. And we’ve played Hutch and New Ulm.”

Worthington went 2-4 against Section 2AAA opponents during the regular season, including early season losses to Marshall (72-51) on Dec. 8 and Waseca (80-50) on Dec. 10. During the Trojans Holiday Classic, they defeated Hutchinson 58-49, but fell to Mankato West 52-49 in the tournament final. The Trojans defeated New Ulm 58-50 on Jan. 17, and lost to Marshall 75-44 on Feb. 3.

If Worthington wins its first-round showdown with Mankato East tonight, Meyer knows the Trojans will have their hands full moving forward, but is certainly not going to throw in the towel.

“After the first round, it’s going to be tough to get past either Marshall or Waseca,” the coach said. “They’ve separated themselves through the regular season. But you could catch lightning in a bottle any night and knock anybody off. So you just take one game at a time and prepare and you go out and throw it up. That’s why you play.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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