The Worthington Trojans fought valiantly Tuesday night on the road against a tough Mankato East team before falling 88-72 in a quarterfinal game of the Section 2AAA Boys Basketball Tournament.
The top-seeded Cougars, who are now 19-7 on the season, opened the game by scoring on back-to-back dunks, and Mankato East also made a flurry of 3-point shots at different stages of the first half. The eighth-seeded Trojans trailed by 18 before running off five straight points shortly before the break, ultimately settling for a 15-point deficit at intermission at 47-32.
The Cougars went up by as many as 19 points in the second half but the Trojans were undeterred, cutting the Mankato East lead to seven on two occasions before the Cougars pulled away late. WHS head coach CJ Nelson pulled senior Jake Brandner late in the contest to allow him to get a special ovation from Trojans fans on the occasion of his final game in a high school basketball uniform.
Worthington, which finished the season with a record of 7-19, was topped in scoring by a pair of 16-point efforts from junior Abagotte Opiew and freshman Jacari Swinea. Junior Marenono Opiew contributed 12 points, and sophomore Kaleb Knothe had nine. Brandner is the lone senior graduating from this year’s Trojan team.
Mankato East, meanwhile, was boosted by an often-flashy performance from senior 6-8 forward B.J. Omot, who scored both inside and outside on his way to a 31-point night. Puolrah Gong, a 6-7 senior forward, added 20 points, and sophomore forward Carson Schweim had 15 points on five 3-point field goals. The Cougars will now host Marshall in semifinal action Saturday night.