Smart and balanced: Trojans hold off Luverne boys basketball team, 65-54
The Worthington High School boys basketball squad defended its home court well Monday with a victory over Luverne.
WORTHINGTON -- Since the second half of the first half and throughout the second half, the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team maintained a lead on Big South Conference rival Luverne Monday night at the local high school gym, but they could never fully shake the Cardinals until the last minute of the contest.
The Trojans won 65-54, advancing to 7-2 on the season while showcasing their ability to control a lead. But they had to work hard to do it.
“We were smart with the basketball down the stretch, we didn’t force,” said WHS head coach Clint Meyer. “We got them out of the zone eventually, and we made some good decisions with the basketball.”
Worthington put four players in double figures and did a credible job on defense against the Cards’ high-scoring 6-5 senior forward Gannon Ahrendt, who was held to only two points for the first 31 minutes of the game. The thousand-point career scorer is too explosive to keep in check for an entire contest, and he finished with 14 points. But with three players rotating in the Trojans’ man-to-man coverage to handle Ahrendt (mostly senior forwards Abagotte and Marenono Opiew), Ahrendt didn’t sink the home team single-handedly. The big offensive weapon for LHS turned out to be 6-0 sophomore guard Carter Sehr, who’s hand was hot throughout.
Sehr finished with 24 points.
The Trojans, meanwhile, got 15 points from 5-10 junior Zachary Hayenga, 14 from Kaleb Knothe, 11 from Jacari Swinea and 10 more from Marenono Opiew. Knothe heated up offensively late in the first half to help WHS lead 34-28 at intermission. Hayenga converted three 3-point shots in the second half and became more confident as a shooter as the game wore on.
He also made an important steal with a little more than two and a half minutes remaining in the second half. Running full speed from one end of the floor to the other, he caught up to an LHS ball-handler from behind to make the theft. Then as 2:36 showed on the clock, Marenono Opiew finished on the other side of the court with a powerful dunk, upping Worthington’s lead to 60-53.
Luverne, which got as close as 48-46 some three minutes earlier on a Sehr 3-pointer and a driving layup off the glass by Sehr, had no more comebacks left.
Hayenga broke one of his fingers in the Trojans’ Dec. 3 season opener against Southwest Minnesota Christian, and Meyer said he was impressed with his efforts on Monday. Not only did Hayenga shoot well, but he was an energetic presence on defense.
“He was keeping ‘em honest and being a threat out there,” Meyer said. “He’s a streaky shooter, but when he gets his confidence he has a great shot.”
Luverne, now 3-5, started the game in a zone and pressed the Trojans occasionally, and they led 9-3 at one point. Worthington didn’t pull even until point guard Mikele Walu scored on a 3-point shot from the left corner with 9:49 remaining in the first half -- which made the score 14-14. Luverne regained the lead at 21-20, but Worthington built a cushion, 30-23, and worked it well.
Veteran Cardinals head coach John Sichmeller said his zone worked well against WHS for a while.
“We knew how good they were. We kind of worked on our zone, and I’m really happy with the way the kids executed it,” he said. “We got it to two and we just hung around.”
Added Sichmeller: “(The Trojans) have got some good athletes to put on (Ahrendt), and that’s why I was very happy with the way (Sehr) played. He did a good job getting things done against some very good kids.”
Luverne 28 54
Worthington 34 65
LUVERNE (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Sehr 2-8-2-24, Feit 1-0-0-3, DeBeer 0-2-6-10, G.Ahrendt 1-5-1-14, L.Ahrendt 0-0-0-0, Woodley 0-1-0-2. Totals 4-16-9-54.
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Walu 1-1-0-5, A.Opiew 1-2-1-8, M.Opiew 0-5-0-10, Knothe 2-3-2-14, Swinea 0-5-1-11, Brands 0-1-0-2, Hayenga 3-3-0-15. Totals 7-20-4-65.