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Trojans overcome slow start, beat Albert Lea in boys basketball, 78-51

Strong second half and deep bench pushes Trojans to a home victory

Worthington Trojans Mikele Walu defends as Albert Lea Tigers Tanner Conn (in white) looks to pass the ball during Saturday afternoon's game.
Worthington Trojans Mikele Walu defends as Albert Lea Tigers Tanner Conn (in white) looks to pass the ball during Saturday afternoon's game.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Trojans defeated non-conference opponent Albert Lea in a late afternoon game Saturday. The Trojans trailed by 10 early in the first half, but a resurgent offense powered the team to a 41-32 halftime lead.

The Trojans came into the matchup battered and at a low spot after the Trojan offense stymied in the previous game, losing to Iowa’s Western Christian 73-37. The loss snapped a Trojan win streak of five games.

A spark for WHS offense came from its bench with sophomore Jacari Swinea slashing his way for 16 points, and junior Zachary Hayenga scoring 11.

“I like to take the ball in for the drive,” said Swinea on his ability to push his way for layups under the basket. “It's a skill to draw a foul and finish for points, I am always working as a player on being able to finish through contact.”

Senior guard Mikele Walu led the Trojans in scoring with 18 points. Abagotte Opiew scored 13 points for WHS. The Trojans went into the halftime break, elated by a Nicholas Schroeder tip in score that beat the buzzer.

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Worthington fans and bench cheer as Trojans take the lead in the first half during a Saturday afternoon game.

“As that first half progressed, our guys got more comfortable with what we wanted to do offensively,” said Worthington head coach Clint Meyer. “We turned up our defensive pressure and were able to get out in transition, and played our best basketball when we were able to just get out and run, play off one another, and just play basketball.

Senior Marenono Opiew started a 7-0 Trojan run in the middle of the second half with a two handed slam dunk which got the Trojan fans standing.

The Trojans defense was up to the challenge the Albert Lea Tigers’ size brought. The Trojan defense held the Tigers starting bigs of 6’3" senior Teddy Collins Jr. to eight points, and 6'5” senior Pal Wal to seven points.

“What we want to do is lock teams down, we want to be able to create offense through our defense,” said Meyer on the willingness his team shows to commit to defense. “We just tried to match up as best as we can, we work post defense with all of our players and we know everybody has got to take a turn and keep battling and I thought we did pretty well on not giving them easy buckets.”

MORE TROJANS SPORTS
Participating teams are Becker, Benson, Big Lake, Byron, Detroit Lakes, Mankato West, Melrose, New London-Spicer, St. Peter, and Worthington.

Leading scorer for the Tigers was Jack Skinness with 13 points. Drew Teeter scored 12 points for Albert Lea.

The Trojans are now 6-2 on the season. WHS will play its next game at home on Monday against the Luverne Cardinals.

Worthington 41 78
Albert Lea 32 51

Dominic Burns is a reporter at the Globe who covers general news and sports.
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