Worthington defeats New Ulm 65-49 in fourth matchup
The Trojans advance to play Mankato East in the Section 2AAA boys basketball championship game
ST. PETER — The Worthington Trojans boys basketball team were victorious 65-49 against the New Ulm Eagles on a Saturday night game on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College. The Trojans won the unusual fourth matchup in a season against the Eagles and evened the head-to-head score, 2-2.
“It is tough playing a team a fourth time but I guess it was our turn,” said Worthington coach Clint Meyer.
Worthington’s record now 21-6 on the season and will play in the Section 2AAA against Mankato East. Mankato East defeated Mankato West 78-50 in the early Section 2AAA semifinal game.
The game followed suit with several of Worthington’s big time wins in the regular season. The Trojans stifling defense frustrated opposing shooters and WHS made the best of open looks on the counter attack.
“I thought we came with a lot of energy at the beginning of the game defensively and the guys really came out and guarded extremely well,” said Meyer. “It was one of our best defensive efforts we have had all year.”
Colton Benson, a Trojans nemesis this year, scored 26, 31, and 18 in the three previous matchups against WHS. Tonight Benson was effective, scoring 20 points in the semifinal game, but the Eagles lacked scoring balance as Benson accounted for all but eight of their second half points.
The Trojans led early as Charlie Brands scored back-to-back baskets for the opening Trojans’ points.
But, WHS found themselves down 16-8 after New Ulm went on a 12-0 scoring run that lasted several minutes of the first half.
Worthington in an attempt to size up against a tall New Ulm team, played 6-foot-5 junior forward Andrew Mulder for an extended period in the first half. Mulder, who spent early parts of the season rehabbing a leg injury, provided clutch baskets for the Trojans and finished with seven points.
“With Mulder and his ability to shoot the basketball we could stretch the floor and draw their big (Firle) away from the basket where he has given us problems all year,” said Meyer. “Later in the game we went to Jacari to hold him (Firle) back and make him come out and guard. It made them take him out of the game late which worked to our advantage.”
Mulder scored a 3-point shot to cut the Eagles’ first half lead and two free throws to help ice the game in the second half after subbing on for an injured Abagotte Opiew.
Zack Hayenga’s 3-point shot in the final seconds of the first half regained the lead for the Trojans, who never trailed again. Hayenga finished with seven points.
With 6:11 remaining in the second half, New Ulm took a timeout after Benson scored a basket, moving the Eagles to within six at 45-39. The Trojans however kept strong by growing their lead.
Kaleb Knothe provided several clutch plays for WHS in the second half. Knothe’s defense drew two New Ulm offensive charge fouls, and he scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. Marenono Opiew scored all nine of his points in the second half including a late slam dunk to put WHS up by 13 points.
Mikele Walu had 10 points for WHS, and Jacari Swinea scored seven. WHS had nine players in total score points.
“That has just been working for us all year,” said Meyer. “We have had multiple guys step up in different games, a couple of guys have scored in the 20s this year, but this is when we are at our best when we have a lot of different guys step up and score, and we did that tonight.”
Worthington played electric defense, and was tenacious in preventing Eagles’ baskets. The Eagles struggled with fouls as Worthington moved into bonus with 3:29 to go in the second half.
New Ulm lost its offensive balance in the second half. 6-foot-9 junior, Nathan Firle scored eight points, but only two came in the second half. James Osborne had 10 points, but scored only two in the second half.
“It was just one of those nights where our shots were falling more consistently than theirs, and we made them work, that's for sure,” said Meyer.
The Trojans will play top seeded Mankato East in the section championship game on Thursday on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus at 7 p.m. The Cougars own a 23-5 record and the winner of the game will receive a bid for the Minnesota Class AAA state tournament.
Worthington 30 65
New Ulm 28 49
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Walu 0-5-0-10, Brands 0-2-0-4, M. Opiew 1-2-2-9, A. Opiew 0-3-0-6, Knuthe 0-5-3-13, Mulder 1-1-2-7, Hayenga 1-2-0-7, Swinea 0-3-1-7, Okony 0-1-0-2. TOTALS 3-24-8-65.
NEW ULM (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Osborn 0-5-0-10, Benson 1-5-7-20, Firle 0-4-0-8, Jensen 1-0-2-5, Horning 0-3-0-6. TOTALS 2-17-9-49.