Trojans rallied to beat Marshall in 1981 sub-section tournament

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As Marshall players sulk, their Worthington Trojans counterparts celebrated on the court after capturing the 1981 sub-section boys basketball championship by a one-point margin. (file photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: In March of 1981, the Worthington High School boys basketball team won its first-ever sub-region championship, and they did it in a thrilling way with a come-from-behind 53-52 victory over arch-rival Marshall. The Globe is reprinting selected articles from great sports moments of the past. Today’s story (condensed), reprinted from the Daily Globe, celebrates the Trojans’ big win over the Tigers. WHS’ season came to an end five days later in a loss to Willmar, 60-51.


Daily Globe Sports Editor

It’s like the man said, “You don’t have to play well all the time, you just have to play well when you need to play well.”

And so it was for the 1980-81 Worthington High basketball Trojans as they came through with a spectacular second-half effort Saturday night to capture the sub-region 2AA championship with a 53-52 victory over the Marshall Tigers. It was the third meeting of the season between the two Southwest Conference opponents with the record standing at a “horse apiece” going into Saturday night’s key meeting at the Senior High gymnasium. And it was the Trojans who will now advance to Region 2AA play on Thursday night at Mankato State’s Highland Arena in a 5 p.m. opener against the Willmar High School Cardinals of the Central Lakes Conference.


For the Trojans and head coach Don Basche, now in his 20th season at the helm of WHS basketball, the sub-regional title was some time in coming. Basche, who has won over 60 percent of his games while coaching the Trojans over that 20-year period, had never won a sub-regional title since the Trojans went to Class AA some seven seasons ago. But all of that has changed now.

As in any key victory, the heroes were many for the Trojans on Saturday night. And it was all made even more dramatic after the Trojans had suffered through a miserable opening 16 minutes of lackadaisical play which resulted in poor rebounding and bad shot selection, plus they were charted with 13 turnovers through the opening two periods.

Trailing 29-19 at halftime, and appearing to be all but out of the ball game, the Trojans were an entirely different outfit once the second half got underway.

Senior Dave Mork, who had passed up a number of shots in the opening half, drilled one from the corner to open the third quarter. After a Marshall turnover, Jeff Meyeraan was fouled and made good on both free throws. Those two gift tosses by the 6-4 junior may have been the spark that ignited the young center. After that Meyeraan came through with perhaps the best eight minutes of basketball in his varsity career. And it was a spark the Trojans needed at that point.

Meyeraan followed with a three-point play before taking a nice feed from guard Todd Michels for another two points. That flurry drew the Trojans close, trailing 31-28 before Marshall’s all-conference Steve Verkinderen scored the Tigers’ first points of the second half. But it was only a momentary lull from WHS.

Meyeraan added another three-point play on a driving layup. Mork swished another from deep in the corner and when sophomore Greg Travis dropped one in from the top of the circle, the Trojans had fought back to tie it at 35-35. The battle was on. ...

Trailing by two going into the final eight minutes, WHS wasted little time in taking command. Mork swished his third straight from the corner, sparkplug reserve Joe Rickers hit from a wing before Travis notched a pair of free tosses. The Trojans were up 45-41 and it was to be a lead they were not to relinquish on this night as WHS never trailed again. …

Two final free tosses by Travis with 38 seconds left gave the Trojans a 53-48 lead. Marshall then got two of those points back on two free shots by Mike Smed before WHS allowed Dan Marks to go in uncontested for a layup with seconds remaining and the final one-point difference. ...


When asked about the second half resurgence of the Trojans, Coach Basche had this to say:

“It was a great comeback for the kids. I felt bad through that first half because we were beating ourselves with all kinds of mistakes. We just weren’t moving. And I felt bad because I knew we could play better than that in a key game.

“We changed to man-to-man the second half and the kids did a great job. We started moving more, we played with much more intensity and the shots fell when we needed them. While it was a big turnaround, I knew the kids could do it.”

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Worthington Trojans Todd Michels (left) and Jeff Meyeraan embrace after knocking off Marshall in the 1981 boys high school sub-region title game. (file photo)

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