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WHS basketball teams hit the wall as the new year begins

It’s the beginning of a brand new year, but the Worthington High School basketball teams seem stuck in the doldrums. Both the girls and the boys squads lost to Western Christian of Iowa Tuesday night at the WHS gym.

010422 N DG Worthington Boys Basketball Vs Western Christian S2.jpg
Worthington Trojans Jacari Swinea leaps forward and flips the basketball underhanded past Western Christian defender Kaden Van Regenmorter during Tuesday evening's game. Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- It’s the beginning of a brand new year, but the Worthington High School basketball teams seem stuck in the doldrums.

Both the girls and the boys squads lost to Western Christian of Iowa Tuesday night at the WHS gym. For the girls, their 76-63 setback was their third straight and fourth in their last five games, dropping them to 6-4 on the season. The boys faced a tougher foe, a Wolfpack team that won an Iowa state championship last year, and the visitors looked like they could win another in 2022 as they dominated 94-44.

Admittedly, the WHS boys (now 1-6) had their hands full against Western, but head coach CJ Nelson still wasn’t pleased at how the Trojans performed. Despite an impressive performance by freshman Jacari Swinea, the team committed 35 turnovers.

“Today we took a step back, I think,” he said. “We gotta re-group, we gotta find a way to compete.”

The Western girls entered Tuesday’s game with a 2-6 record, but they played above their weight as the Trojans made plenty of their own mistakes despite scoring well inside for most of the way.

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“We got the ball inside like we wanted to. We got some scores inside. But we had too many turnovers. And we got beat back (on defense),” said head coach Eric Lindner.

Girls

Western Christian 76, Worthington 63

Worthington led 9-2 early in the contest as four of its players hit the scoring column. Posts Tarren Spartz and Ellie Weg were especially strong inside, with Spartz scoring 16 first-half points and Weg adding seven.

But the Wolfpack, trailing 37-33 at halftime, scored the first five points of the second half and led 65-56 with 3:45 remaining. The Trojans never caught fire.

“I don’t understand the difference between now and the beginning of the season,” said Lindner, whose team began the 2021-22 campaign with five consecutive wins.

Player confidence, he agreed, needs a boost. At times on Tuesday, the Trojans seemed unsure of what they were trying to do.

“I guess when it’s not working, you ask yourself, ‘Should I take this (shot)? Should I get it inside?’ I guess when you take it you better believe you’re gonna make it.”

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Spartz finished with 24 points and Weg finished with 12. Point guard Olivia Hayenga had 18 points.

Stella Winterfeld led Western Christian with 22 points while Lydia Van Kley had 17 and Shayla Van Beek 14.

Western Christian 33 76

Worthington 37 63

WESTERN CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Van Beek 2-2-4-14, DeJager 0-1-0-2, Van Kley 0-7-3-17, Statema 1-1-1-6, Winterfeld 0-9-4-22, Harberts 0-3-2-8, Wynja 0-3-1-7. Totals 3-26-15-76.

WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Scheitel-Taylor 0-1-2-4, Hayenga 0-7-4-18, T.Spartz 0-9-6-24, Weg 0-4-4-12, Beckmann 1-0-0-3, K.Spartz 0-1-0-2. Totals 1-22-16-63.

Boys

Western Christian 94, Worthington 44

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There was at least one Worthington player who never let the one-sided score get him down, and that was the 6-0 freshman guard Swinea, who scored 15 points in the first half and ended with 24. He also had six rebounds.

Worthington trailed 57-22 at halftime in a game it was never in. But Swinea put on a show nonetheless.

“Just take the ball and just attack,” he described his attitude. “We gotta keep bookin’. That’s what my dad said, ‘Keep on taking it in, don’t be scared.”

Swinea still has so much confidence in the team that he believes the Trojans can still get a state tournament berth despite their 1-6 record at this point.

“It’s still early in the season. We can catch up. … We still got a chance, we just gotta keep going.”

The talented yet young Trojans, however, were simply unable to keep up with a Western Christian team that was long, quick, and very athletic. The Wolfpack connected on nine 3-point shots in the game to Worthington’s one (by Swinea). They gave WHS the whole package -- pressing, forcing turnovers, scoring layups and scoring from long range.

Wyatt Gulker led the way for Western (7-1) with 19 points.

Western Christian 57 94

Worthington 22 44

WESTERN CHRISTIAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Winterfeld 1-0-0-3, Van’t Hul 0-2-2-6, Pollema 3-1-0-11, Gulker 1-7-2-19, Jansma 1-3-0-9, Douma 1-0-0-3, E. Van Essen 1-2-1-8, Petitt 1-1-0-5, T. Van Essen 0-4-4-12, T.Van Regenmorter 0-4-1-9, K.Van Regenmorter 0-3-3-9. Totals 9-27-13-94.

WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- J.Brandner 0-0-3-3, Lia 0-2-3-7, Swinea 1-9-3-24, Mulder 0-1-0-2, McCoy 0-1-2-4, Zeidi 0-1-0-2, Bobb 0-1-0-2. Totals 1-15-11-44.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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