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Boys basketball: Worthington upsets Cards in quarters

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Worthington’s Marcus Potter drives through the Willmar defense for a second-half lay-up when the senior guard scored 14 of his 23 points, helping the Trojans overcome a 49-37 deficit at halftime.

WILLMAR — So it ends.

One of Willmar’s most exciting basketball teams prematurely crashed and burned in the Section 2AAA quarterfinals on Tuesday night, losing to Worthington 92-88.

The Cardinals bolted to a 49-37 lead by half but a ragged second half allowed the underdog Trojans to post 55 second-half points and boot the home team from the postseason.

That’s not to shortchange the No. 6-seeded Trojans, who are now a modest 10-14. Just as the No. 3-seed, they start four seniors, have good size and like to run-and-shoot.

“We just haven’t been good at finishing before tonight,” said Worthington senior guard Spencer Grafing, whose 25 second-half points and clutch free throws were instrumental in the comeback. “We’ve lost a lot of games by less than 10 points.”

That included an 84-76 loss to the Cards on Jan. 25 at Worthington.

“If we took them lightly, we shouldn’t have,” said Willmar coach Steve Grove. “They challenged us the first time.”

Willmar was on fire the first half, especially Dylan Schueler, first off the bench all season. The senior forward had eight field goals, perhaps four of those from just inside the arc.

The Cards started fast in the second half, too, then tailed off as their shooting cooled, including missing two breakaway lay-ups. The Trojans tied it 60-60 at 10:45 on a pair of free throws by Marcus Potter and got their first lead at 9:30, 65-64, on a 3-pointer by Grafing who finished with 30 points.

Worthington went up 78-72 on a three-point play by Potter which he followed with two free throws at 2:38.

Willmar fired back. Tyler Stegeman and Kyler Johnson each hit a three and Willmar got within a basket of the lead. But 6-foot-4 forward Will Mulder got a piece of Stegeman’s corner shot with 15 seconds left for the tie and Worthington rebounded.

Grafing kept the Trojans in front with his free throw accuracy, making 11 of 12, most of those late in the second half.

Potter scored 23. Mulder added 12 points and Carter Lindner 11, two of the team’s eight seniors.

The 92 points are, by far, the most allowed by Willmar in regulation this year.

Johnson hit for 25 points, Stegeman 19, Schueler 17, Adam Nibaur 12 and Alex Grove 10 for the Cardinals but assist (6) and rebound (7)  leader Joel Carter was held to a point.

The Trojans play Mankato West (82-47 winners over New Ulm) at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Taylor Center in Mankato.

Willmar ends up 18-8, up from 13-14 a year ago and matching the 2011-12 win total.

Worthington 92, Willmar 88

Worthington (10-14)         37  55 — 92

Willmar (18-8)    49  39 — 88

WORTHINGTON – 25-58 FG (8-17 3-pt); 28-39 FT; 33  rebounds; 16 fouls … Scoring: Spencer Grafing 30, Marcus Potter 23, Will Mulder 12, Carter Lindner 11, Oliver Wolyniec 8, Will Dudley 6, Jake Wig 2 … 3-point shots: Grafing 5-7, Potter 1-3, Mulder 12, Lindner 1-3 … Rebound leaders: Potter 5, Dudley 8, Lindner 5, Mulder 5 … Assist leaders: Potter 7 … Steal leaders: Lindner 3, Potter 2… Blocks: Muldner 1

WILLMAR – 34-65 FG (8-24 3-pt); 12-21 FT; 31 rebounds; 26 fouls … Scoring: Kyler Johnson 25, Tyler Stegeman 19, Dylan Schueler 17, Adam Nibaur 12, Austin Grove 10, Brady Damhof 3, Joel Carter 1, Josh Holtz 1… 3-point shots: Johnson 4-8, Stegeman 0-9 … Rebound leaders: Johnson 4, Schueler 5, Nibaur 9, Grove 7, Carter 11 … Assist leaders: Johnson 3, Nibaur 3, Carter 6 … Steal leaders: Stegeman 3 … Blocks: Johnson 2, Carter 2

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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