MORGAN - Just when it seemed that the Cedar Mountain/Comfrey boys' basketball team was showing signs of playing on equal footing with Class AA opponent Worthington on Friday, the Trojans squashed the Cougars' hope with a stretch of torrid shooting.
Worthington seemingly didn't miss a shot in the latter part of first half, breaking open a 19-19 game by adding 40 points in the final 10 minutes before halftime en route to a 93-70 non-conference victory.
"It's one of those games where we kind of ran into a very hot team," CM/C head coach Brian Pendleton said. "They were making shots, and their size and quickness was something we hadn't seen all year, so give them a lot of credit. It's nice experience for our guys."
Staff photo by Daniel Kerwin
Cedar Mountain/Comfrey senior Zach Kerkhoff (32) is fouled on his way to the basket by Worthington’s Spencer Grafing (43) during the first half of Friday’s non-conference boys’ basketball game in Morgan.
The Trojans took an early lead thanks to the post presence of 6-foot-6 senior Morgan Traylor, but the Cougars gritted their way back into the game.
After CM/C took a time out with Worthington ahead 16-12, Cougars sophomore Sam Pendleton quickly made a 3-pointer. Teammate Brady Kerkhoff followed with an extraordinary basket - scoring right off of an inbounds pass from Pendleton despite falling over as he shot - to give CM/C its first lead at 17-16.
From that point, though, a stretch of three 3-pointers over a minute-long span from Worthington senior Jon Vorwald completely changed the nature of the game.
After Vorwald's first 3, CM/C senior Zach Kerkhoff scored - also while falling down - to tie the game at 19-19. However, Vorwald's next two 3-pointers went unanswered, after which the Cougars didn't pull within six points the rest of the contest.
Worthington scored nine 3-pointers during its first-half shooting clinic, with five different players contributing 3s. Only two Trojans actually scored 2-pointers in the first half, though the pair - Traylor and Will Dudley - combined for 28 points.
By halftime, Worthington had pulled out to a 59-33 lead.
"Right away I thought we played them pretty good, but then towards the end of the second half we started falling apart," Sam Pendleton said. "Before we know it, at halftime we're down by, like, 20. It's tough to come back on a team like that, especially with the way they were shooting tonight. They shot the ball really well."
Though the Cougars knew that it wouldn't be easy to catch the Trojans in the second half, they never let up in the contest.
"Playing a team like this we knew that it would be pretty hard to come back, so we just wanted to win the second half at least, or make it close in the second half," Sam Pendleton said.
In the end CM/C was able to win the second half, scoring 37 points compared to just 33 for Worthington.
However, an early hot stretch in the second half by Worthington junior Marcus Potter kept the Trojans' lead at a comfortable distance. Potter scored 11 of his team's first 13 points in the half, helping Worthington extend its lead to a maximum of 35 points.
Javin Larsen provided a highlight for CM/C midway through the second half with a cross-over move that caused his Worthington defender to fall down.
The Cougars had a balanced scoring effort in the contest, with Sam Pendleton leading the team with 16 points. He also had a team-high 11 assists and a team-high eight rebounds, narrowly missing a triple-double.
Riley Kerkhoff added 14 points for the Cougars, Zach Kerkhoff (six rebounds) had 12 points, Henry Pendleton (five rebounds) contributed 10 points and Brady Kerkhoff finished with nine points.
Worthington was led by Traylor with 26 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Spencer Grafing added 16 points for the Trojans and Potter finished with 15 points and 11 assists.
Brian Pendleton mentioned after that game that he was glad to see his team endure a game against a big-school team like Worthington as a learning experience in preparation for the playoffs.
"I think it's important for us to see good competition, especially before tournament time," Brian Pendleton said. "That was the whole idea of it, to start playing some bigger schools. We've got Windom on Monday as well, so they'll be a challenge for us. It can do nothing but help us to play stronger teams."
The Cougars (17-5) will continue a busy stretch of four games in five days when they host New Ulm Cathedral tonight in Morgan and then host Windom on Monday in Comfrey.