Trojans and Tigers set for rubber match
WORTHINGTON -- For the third time this season, the Worthington Trojans and the Marshall Tigers will square off in a girls' basketball contest. However, tonight's meeting at the Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, i...
WORTHINGTON -- For the third time this season, the Worthington Trojans and the Marshall Tigers will square off in a girls' basketball contest.
However, tonight's meeting at the Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, is the biggest of the year so far.
Once again, Worthington and Marshall will meet in the section finals for the right to advance to state. Last season, Worthington defeated Marshall, 64-52, before bowing out in the first round of the state tournament.
"Last year, they were coming in as the favorite, and we had a real good game defensively," Worthington head coach Eric Lindner said. "It's kind of one of those things that it's gone back and forth. It's a case where two programs have a lot of success doing what they've been doing. We've been lucky enough to be in this thing for the fifth time."
The two teams will square off at 7 p.m. today for the chance to represent Section 2AAA at the state tournament.
"I think this week has been a real exciting week for us," Lindner said. "Anytime you have a chance to compete in a section final, it's a nice feeling to have. The practice atmosphere has been all business, and the focus has been on how to take away their strengths. But it's also focusing on our strengths."
As Southwest Conference foes, the Trojans and the Tigers have faced each other twice this season. Worthington defeated Marshall 66-53 at home Dec. 20, while the Tigers won on their home floor Feb. 16, 82-80, on a last-second shot.
However, Marshall head coach Mary Jo Hmielewski sees the third meeting as both an advantage and a disadvantage.
"Both teams know each other very well, so I think it's going to come down to a hard-fought game again," Hmielewski said.
In the first meeting, Worthington controlled the game from the beginning.
The Trojans opened up a 27-14 lead early and capped the game with a 19-6 run to earn the 13-point victory.
However, in the second matchup between the teams, it took last-second heroics for the Tigers to come out on top.
After opening up a 53-34 lead in the beginning of the second half, the Tigers' lead slowly began to shrink. However, a basket by Katie Mulder with one second remaining gave Marshall the two-point victory.
"I think that Worthington feels pretty confident about the way that they came back in that game," Hmielewski said. "I don't think we have real big momentum from that game."
One key for the Tigers will be their ability to control the ball.
"I think for both teams, executing the game plan is going to be a key," Hmielewski said. "We need to try to slow down Worthington's momentum and hopefully control their press and be able to hang on to the basketball."
In Tigers' victory earlier this season, Marshall connected on 10 3-pointers in the first half to open up a large lead.
"Their strengths really have not changed, just like our's probably haven't," Lindner said. "Anna Full is a girl that we're really going to need to do a nice job defensively on. I think she had 33 points in her last game, so we're really going to have to limit their 3-point looks."
Full scored just eight points in the first meeting, but tallied 20 in the Tigers' victory.
"Shooting always has to be a big key," Hmielewski said. "Hopefully, we have more than a couple of players that are able to make some baskets for us. We're going to have to have a balanced scoring attack."
The Trojans will enter the game healthy and with a full roster.
"We're at full strength and healthy," Lindner said. "It's good to always go into those situations knowing that you have everyone and that they are ready to go. For the seniors, the mentality is that we don't want to be done yet. I think we'll be ready, and it will be a real entertaining game."
With both teams playing for the chance at a state tournament, Hmielewski sees the game playing out to be another close contest.
"We expect to make Worthington to make their runs," Hmielewski said. "We just hope that we can sustain their runs and not let them get too far ahead of us, so we can make the game go down to the wire."