WHS BOYS' BASKETBALL: Trojans roll Cards 62-41

JACKSON -- Getting 11 consecutive defensive stops midway through the first half Thursday night, the top-seeded Worthington Trojans opened up a 35-15 halftime lead and earned a 62-41 victory over the fourth-seeded Luverne Cardinals in the semifina...

LHS's Kline
brian korthals/daily globe Cardinal senior Brandon Kline (3) attempts to drive inside guarded by Trojan senior Dan Wetering (35) during Thursday night playoff action in Jackson.

JACKSON -- Getting 11 consecutive defensive stops midway through the first half Thursday night, the top-seeded Worthington Trojans opened up a 35-15 halftime lead and earned a 62-41 victory over the fourth-seeded Luverne Cardinals in the semifinals of the Section 3AA South high school boys' basketball tournament at Jackson County Central High School.

Worthington, which improves to 19-6 overall, held Luverne to just three field goals in the first half and received balanced scoring from eight players during the initial 18 minutes to advance to the sub-section championship game Saturday in Marshall, as the Trojans -- who are 9-1 in their last 10 contests -- will take on second-seeded Fairmont (22-5) at 2:30 p.m.

"I'm really happy with our defensive effort, as we guarded people and were very solid on that end of the floor," summed up Worthington head coach Ron Vorwald after the game. "We did a great job of covering Luverne's shooters and contesting their shots, plus we rebounded the ball well and limited their second chances. Defense and rebounding were the keys for us in a well-balanced win."

All eight of the Trojans who played in the first half scored, as Mitch Weg (eight), Dan Wetering (six), Jon Reller (five), Jon Vorwald (five), Morgan Traylor (four), Spencer Grafing (three), Lucas Henning (two) and Marcus Potter (two) combined for 35 points -- including 13 straight from the 9:59 mark until 5:13 remained to extend a 17-8 lead to 30-8.

Luverne, which ends its season with a record of 14-11, didn't score for more than six successive minutes -- from 11:05 to 4:55 -- in that same span as the margin got wider.


"That was the stretch where we got 11 consecutive defensive stops, which was a huge factor in allowing us to build the lead that we did," Ron Vorwald said. "We also had several other sequences when we got either four or five consecutive stops, so we did a great job of meeting that objective and taking control of the game defensively. We also ran our offense well and were aggressive in taking the ball to the basket."

Size, strength and defense spark Trojans in big first half

Jon Vorwald (seven points) opened the game's scoring with a driving basket in transition 50 seconds in, while Weg (10 points, nine rebounds and three assists) muscled up an offensive-rebound basket to make it 4-0 Trojans with 14:57 remaining in the first half.

Brandon Klein, who scored a game-high 17 points to lead Luverne, got the Cardinals on the board with a right-wing 3-pointer at the 14:10 mark. Then, after Weg scored on a drive, Luverne's Brett Heronimus netted two free throws to make it 6-5 with 13:32 to go.

Worthington took an 11-5 lead a minute later, as Traylor (14 points, nine rebounds) scored underneath before Wetering (eight points) knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing.

"We had great balance tonight, and that's when we are at our best," said Wetering, who converted on a 3-point play off a long offensive rebound -- 26 seconds after Jon Vorwald turned in a 3-point play of his own -- to push the Trojans' lead to 17-6 at the 11:14 mark. "We are a very unselfish basketball team and normally play well when everybody is contributing like they did tonight. It was a good win for us against a good Luverne ballclub."

Klein scored on a drive in the lane nine seconds later, but that's when Worthington assembled its 13-0 run and took command. Henning (five points, seven rebounds and five assists) started the surge with a driving spin and 12-footer in the lane at the 9:59 mark.

Weg then scored on the left block and passed to Grafing for a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 24-8. A nifty fast-break hoop -- Henning to Weg to Potter (three assists) -- was followed by a strong offensive-rebound basket by Weg and a bucket down low from Traylor to extend the gap to 30-8 with 5:13 on the clock.


"Worthington's size and strength, along with their defensive performance, were the differences in the game," Luverne head coach Tom Rops said. "It's hard for us to matchup with them, and we had trouble scoring. Give the Trojans a lot of credit, as they have a very well-rounded team that can hurt you in lots of ways."

A 3-point play by Matt Overgaard snapped Luverne's scoring drought at the 4:55 mark, but Reller scored five straight points -- a layup underneath off a nice interior feed from Traylor and a 3-point play off an offensive-rebound opportunity -- to put Worthington up 35-13 with 1:50 left.

Heronimus and Klein each sank one of two free throws in the last 39 seconds to make it 35-15 at the break, as the Cardinals were 8-for-11 from the line in the first half and 15-for-21 overall.

"We wanted to try and control the tempo of the game, making it a low-scoring affair for as long as possible and giving ourselves a chance to stay close until the end," Rops said. "Our guys were confident that we could compete with Worthington and we did do a decent job defensively. We just couldn't find a way to score consistently enough, other than at the free-throw line."

WHS maintains lead in the second half, Verdoorn and Gravenhof score

Worthington, which was just 5-for-15 from the free-throw line, stayed in control throughout the second half. Weg, Vorwald, Potter, Traylor and Wetering each scored in the paint early on to help the Trojans mount a 45-21 lead six minutes in.

Klein (8-for-10 on free-throw attempts) and Matt Arends (13 points, all in the second half) sparked a brief 7-0 run to make it 45-28, but Worthington was soon up 52-30 and widened the gap to as many as 26 points (58-32 and 60-34) in the final three minutes.

Traylor, who scored 10 points after the intermission, supplied a putback basket and also received feeds from Potter and Grafing for a pair of hoops inside to help the Trojans maintain a comfortable cushion. Henning also buried a 3-pointer from out top -- before passing to Traylor for a breakaway layup a bit later -- to highlight Worthington's diversified offensive arsenal.


Tyler Verdoorn fired a jumper from the right elbow and also meshed two free throws for the Trojans, while Dylan Gravenhof nailed a shot from the left elbow to complete Worthington's scoring.

"We took care of the ball well (seven turnovers) and executed," Ron Vorwald said. "We did a lot of things that we wanted to do, including getting the ball inside, crashing the offensive glass and running the floor at times. Everybody played well and contributed to an important tournament win."

Arends dialed in his third 3-pointer of the second half at the 1:39 mark, while Josh Slieter (interior basket) and Blake Richters (two free throws) also got into the scoring column for the Cardinals.

"We had a good season and were led by two senior veterans in Brandon Klein and Devin Heitkamp," summed up Rops. "We wanted to have a .500 record or better and win a playoff game, and we accomplished both of those goals. I'm happy with the way our guys practiced and competed all year long."

Luverne 15 26 -- 41

Worthington 35 27 -- 62

Luverne (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Arends 3-2-0-13, Klein 1-3-8-17, Overgaard 0-1-1-3, Richters 0-0-2-2, Heronimus 0-0-4-4, Slieter 0-1-0-2. Totals: 4-7-15-41.

WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Vorwald 0-3-1-7, Henning 1-1-0-5, Verdoorn 0-1-2-4, Potter 0-2-0-4, Gravenhof 0-1-0-2, Wetering 1-2-1-8, Traylor 0-7-0-14, Grafing 1-0-0-3, Weg 0-5-0-10, Reller 0-2-1-5. Totals: 3-24-5-62.


WHS's Reller
brian korthals/daily globe Trojan senior Jon Reller takes an inside jump shot during Thursday night's South Sub-Section 3AA playoff game in Jackson.

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