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Trojans edged by Hutchinson 57-55 in Section 2AAA playoffs

Mar. 7—WORTHINGTON — A ferocious second half comeback from the Worthington High School boys basketball team came up one shot short in its 57-55 home loss to Hutchinson in the Section 2AAA playoffs.

The No. 4 seed Trojans (14-12) trailed by double digits at halftime and for most of the second half until they stormed back, cutting the lead to two points with a final shot to potentially win the game. The 3-pointer missed at the buzzer and Worthington's season ended in heartbreaking fashion.

"I thought we had a great season," said Trojans head coach Clint Meyer. "We were able to play for a conference championship, maybe not as many wins as we were looking at the beginning of the year... We played a tough schedule, it's a tough conference, a tough section and we were in a lot of games and competed well. Got a home playoff game and a chance to play for a Big South Conference championship, so I can say we were pretty successful this year."

Fifth seeded Hutchinson (17-10) moves on to the section semifinals against top seed Mankato East Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus Lund Center in St. Peter. They also got some revenge on the Trojans.

The game was a rematch of a Feb. 10 regular season meeting the Trojans won 97-90 in a high scoring affair.

Wednesday's game started with a quick layup on a drive to the basket from senior Zach Hayenga right after WHS won the opening tip. He scored 41 points in the regular season meeting with Hutchinson.

A mid range jumper from junior Jacari Swinea gave WHS a 4-0 lead before Hutchinson scored six consecutive points to take its first lead with 13:17 left. That sparked a 13-2 run for the Tigers before Meyer called a timeout with 11:47 left.

Coming out of the timeout, the Trojans later found themselves down nine before two consecutive buckets cut it back down to five at 15-10. But every time WHS tried to answer in the first half, the Tigers responded as they took their first double digit lead of the night with around 7:40 left, 21-10.

The keys to Hutchinson's success throughout the first half were turnovers on defense, offensive rebounds and working the ball down low into the paint. With around four minutes left, the Tigers took their biggest lead of the half at 27-14.

As the half neared the 1:30 mark, WHS cut the lead back to single digits with five straight points following a trey from Hayenga and a follow off a miss inside from fellow senior Andrew Mulder. That cut the lead to 29-22 with under a minute left.

An answered trey from Hutchinson's Kaden Butler made the lead 10 again with under 20 seconds left. He then hit another one right before the first half buzzer sounded to give his team a 35-23 lead at the break.

"We kind of let them go where they wanted I thought in the first half, too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds... and that's how we got ourselves in that hole, but we competed much better in the second half."

The Tigers opened the second half with a trey from Logan Butler to give them their biggest lead of the game at 38-23. The Tigers continued to hold that lead throughout most of the half as they consistently answered any potential scoring runs from WHS. The Trojans began using a full court press defensively in the second half, but the Tigers were able to find teammates cutting to the basket for some easy layups.

The Trojans finally began to assert themselves back into the game near the seven minute mark. They first cut it to single digits at 51-42 on a Mulder 3-pointer as the clock approached seven minutes remaining.

"Second half, we did the things that we asked them to do, guard with more urgency," Meyer said. "(We) got stops, got out in transition, which we didn't do very much of in the first half, so I'm proud of their effort. They played their tails off."

With 5:09 left, the Trojans still weren't going away as a tough layup from senior Kaleb Knothe off a turnover cut the Tigers lead down to seven. The lead was again cut to seven with 2:20 left following a Hayenga putback off a missed layup from Swinea.

WHS then forced a turnover and a Hayenga inside pass to Mulder cut the lead to five on that possession with just under two minutes left. After senior Mak Lia drew a charge, Hayenga was left wide open in the corner and he swished the 3-pointer to cut Worthington's deficit to two, 57-55 with only 1:07 remaining.

Mulder then drew another charge to give the Trojans the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. As the final seconds were winding down, a contested layup from Swinea missed and Kaden Butler was fouled with 5.7 seconds remaining. He missed the one and one free throw for Hutchinson, WHS grabbed the rebound and Meyer took a timeout with two seconds remaining.

Coming out of the timeout, Knothe inbounded the pass to Hayenga near half court and he heaved a deep three just past the Trojans midcourt logo. Hayenga's long trey clanked off the right rim and the Tigers were just barely able to celebrate their victory.

"We were looking for Andrew on a back screen from Zach. I think they were anticipating the elevator screen so I thought we could get maybe a lob over the top to Andrew," Meyer said about the final inbound play. "And that maybe wasn't there, and then Zach coming off of another a pin down, (Hutchinson) did a good job of doubling him and they actually did a good job of taking Zach off the three point line most of the night. Still got a look, it wasn't the look we were hoping for, but we had an opportunity."

Hayenga wound up leading the Trojans in scoring with 17 points, while Mulder scored 16 and Swinea 15 to score the majority of Worthington's points. Knothe ended with four points and Permeye Okony had three.

For Hutchinson, the twin brother duo of Kaden and Logan Butler led the way all night, scoring 45 of the team's 57 points. Kaden scored 20 points and Logan scored a game high 25.

The loss for the Trojans not only marks the end of their season, but also the prep careers of five seniors on the roster in Tucker Brandner, Hayenga, Knothe, Lia and Mulder.

"We had five outstanding seniors this year as I've been telling them, they all brought something different to the table, whether it be scoring or defense or being a guy that communicates what we're trying to ask them to do, being a leader that way," Meyer said. "(After the game) I told them I was proud of them and not to hang their heads, we played hard, we competed all season long and we're going to miss them that's for sure."

Hutchinson 35 22 — 57

Worthington 23 32 — 55