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Trojan Holiday Classic: Worthington too big to fail

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington dominated the undersized Hutchinson Tigers down low, scoring points in the paint and owning the boards in its 58-49 victory in the opening round of the Daily Globe Holiday Classic on Thursday at Worthington High School.

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Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Worthington Trojan Stewart Merrigan (33) drives in past Hutchinson's Mike Kieser (5) Thursday night at the WHS gym.

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington dominated the undersized Hutchinson Tigers down low, scoring points in the paint and owning the boards in its 58-49 victory in the opening round of the Daily Globe Holiday Classic on Thursday at Worthington High School.

“That was our focus going in,” Worthington head coach Clint Meyer said. “We knew they were undersized so we needed to get the ball inside. We did a great job in the first half and they made some adjustments to take away some of that in the second half. That was the key for us -- getting the ball to our bigs.”

The Trojans were on fire in the first half, more than doubling the Tigers 32-15 in the first half, due in no small part to 6-foot-3 forward Tyler Linder’s 19 points before the break.

Worthington opened and closed the first half with 7-0 runs, with Linder keying both. Six-seven center Stewart Merrigan jumped above the Hutchinson big men and grabbed an offensive rebound and got the putback with about two minutes to go in the half. He added two more on free throws the next time down the court. Tucker Sorenson scored the last points of the half -- and his only points -- with a nice drive down the lane, earning an and-one, but missed the free throw.

Hutchinson adjusted and rallied back with a 34-point second half. They came back to within 10 with about 9 minutes to go, and were down seven with six to go.

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But the Trojans took over after that, as Linder scored the next four points and held on.

“In the second half, Hutchinson came out -- give them credit -- and took away the things we were doing in the first half and kinda rattled us a little bit,” Meyer said. “But we gutted it out and I was really proud that we did the things that made us successful and didn’t get away from that and battled it out.”

Linder finished the game with 25 points, and along with Merrigan, dominated under the basket for the Trojans.

“I think it was the guards and everyone else that passed me the ball, getting me looks, helping me out and making me work harder myself,” Linder said. “The ball was just falling in the hoop in the first half, it was a good night for all the guys.”

Merrigan showed off a diverse set of post moves on the way to scoring 10 points and towered above the Hutchinson big men.

“Stewart was working really hard,” Linder said. “Everyone was just hungry for the ball tonight and that was the difference.”

Five-ten guard Mitchell Max was the key to the Tigers’ big second half, scoring 17 of his 20 points after the break. Fletcher Vilt added 12 points.

OD Othow, recovered from an injury that sidelined him early in the season, and Zach Boever formed a dynamic pair in the backcourt, creating open space for their teammates. Boever scored 10 points and Othow scored five.

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Worthington plays Mankato West today at 6:30 p.m. in the Holiday Classic championship game. Hutchinson plays Sibley East at 5 p.m. for third place.

Hutchinson 15 49Worthington 32 58HUTCHINSON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Max 1-5-7-20, Mueller 0-3-0-6, Kieser 0-2-0-4, Elliott 0-1-0-2, Corrigan 1-1-0-5, Vilt 0-5-2-12. Totals 2-17-9-49.WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Othow 0-2-1-5, Boever 1-3-2-10, Huisman 0-2-0-4, Merrigan 0-4-2-10, Sorenson 0-1-0-2, Coriolan 0-1-0-2, Linder 0-9-7-25. Totals 1-22-16-58.

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Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Logan Huisman (23) of Worthington goes straight up for a shot over Hutchinson's Mitchell Max.

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