Wildcats News · Wildcats win at Holy Family, against Orono at home, and a mid-season update! (updates from week of Jan. 6-10)

Waconia journeyed to Holy Family this week with the 9th grade and Varsity squads to take on rival Holy Family, and both teams emerged victorious, the 9th with a dominant 62-10 showing. In the words of coach Damasin, it was “total domination, everyone got in the book, and plenty of minutes were logged by the whole squadron! Impressive from the 9th squad was their patience on offense – they were consistently reversing the ball, sharing, looking for each other, and that’s good basketball!

The Varsity took a little longer to get started against the rival Holy Family, not communicating well on defense and starting with some lackluster on offense, missing many layups, point-blank shots within 4 feet, and not moving the ball especially well at times. Sloppy plays were made at the beginning and end of the half, sparking a couple of and-1 opportunities for Holy Family, and some easy layups. However, we were able to put together a couple of runs to carry into a halftime lead. In the second half, we played with more poise, defensive urgency, and ran the floor better to allow us to separate through the remainder of the game. Were sparked by a number of contributors, which is a strength of this team, as we play at our best when we play for each other – looking for each other on the break, working together as a team on defense, and creating for others on the drive. Sydney Olson sparked an early 2nd half run by hitting a couple of 3’s, and ended the game with 9. Audrey Swanson was a huge spark on both the defensive end and offensive end, scoring 18 with 4 boards, 3 steals, and assist and 0 turnovers, shooting 53% from the field. Ava Stier scored 15, 6 boards, and an assist. Others contributed significantly:  Tess Johnson with 10 pts., 8 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals; Addy Salzer with 5 points and rebs.; Natalie Meath with 4 pts., 6 boards, and a steal; Dani Dykstra with 4 pts, 7 boards; Allie Zimmer with 1 pt, 5 reb. and 5 assists; Mel Honnold with 2 pts and 5 boards; 3 pts, 4 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

Look at those rebounding numbers – 9 players with 4 or more rebounds! That’s spectacular, and a key to our success – we don’t have to rely on one or two players to do all of a particular aspect of a game for us – unselfishness is the key to everything that we do- offensively, rebounding, defensively, etc.! Every team has to, at times, “win ugly” and find a way to pull off wins when things aren’t ideal, and that’s what we were able to do.

On Thursday, it was a mishmash of opponents, as the B faced the JV of Chaska, unfortunately falling due to a combination of foul trouble, cold shooting, and a tough defensive opponent. We played GREAT in the first half on defense, but lost momentum in the 2nd. Lauren “Olga” Hansen had 16 and hit 3 3’s, and Morgan Meyer had 8, as did Nora Bailey. This team continues to compete, get good minutes, and is using its time together to work on the skills that they have to to evolve as players, and we’re seeing progress!

The JV took on a very talented Orono JV, with quite a few varsity contributors on the roster, and fell 60-39 to a hot-shooting Orono. We, unfortunately, were not hot shooting in the first half, only getting 9 points, despite the myriad open looks at the hoop, both from 3 and at the basket – the lid on the hoop was unrelenting. We scored 30 in the second half, which shows that we could very well compete well with the opposition, so the challenge is to find some consistency with shooting and scoring the ball, especially when it comes to being physical around the basket on offense – strong takes only! Hallie Roitenberg and Kylie Sazema both had 10 in the second half, hitting 2 3’s and 2 2’s apiece.

Against Orono, the varsity played with a much higher sense of urgency throughout, despite a couple of early miscues on defense against Orono’s best player. Once we communicated better on defense, and talked through transition D, we were able to create some separation halfway through the first half, leading at the half 44-32, and finishing with a win at 79-58.

We were 9/26 from 3, scored 18 transition points, and had 27 points off of turnovers compared to Orono’s 7. We also crashed the offensive boards, scoring 24 second chance points to Orono’s 4, on a spectacular 20 offensive boards.

Mel Honnold was a major spark for the wildcats; She scored 15 points off of 4/7 3’s, and was an absolute terror on defense, netting 7 steals  and 3 deflections on the game, with 2 boards and 3 assists. Also scoring for the wildcats, in another balanced effort: Swanson with 12, Stier with 10 (and 11 boards – double double!), Olson with 9, Johnson with 8, Zimmer with 8 (100% from the field!), Dykstra with 7, Meath with 5, Roitenberg with 3, and Lenz with 2. That has been, largely, the case throughout this season, and really makes it tough on the opposition, because they can not focus too much on any specific player, because our teammates will pick up the slack!

Rebounding was also a team effort, and leaders were Steir with 11, Dykstra with 6, and Zimmer and Swanson with 4. Our assist numbers were also good, which shows a willingness to share the ball, create for one another, and be team players: Zimmer with 4, Stier and Honnold with 3, Olson Johnson and Lenz with 2, Meath Brueggemeier and Dykstra with 1.

I don’t tend to put out a ton of stats so that the opposition can scout our trends, but I will say this, and it’s what I’ve been saying all season long: Our depth, balance, and team chemistry are our strength, and absolutely necessary for becoming the team that we want to be to accomplish our goals. Our team has committed to playing intense basketball, giving maximum effort, and supporting each other no matter what. That is the absolute most important factor going into the second half of the season.

We have players averaging the following for scoring: 10.7, 9.2, 8, 7.9, 7.5, 5.5, 5.2, 4.6, 3.3, , and 3. We’ve had 8 different players lead us in scoring in a particular game – that is spectacular and a testament to our team, and its willingness to play for each other and celebrate each others’ successes. On some teams, that much talent could be a toxic stew leading to selfishness, looking out for only a players’ particular stats, but our team is dedicating itself to unselfishness, and continues to work on making each other better, both on and off the ball.

Scoring is only part of the story: Rebounding, we have players averaging 6.7, 4.7, 4.7, 3.4, 3.4, 3.3, 2.5, 2.2, 2.2, and 2.2! Rebounding by committee is a luxury that we need to continue getting after! Assists are also balanced, with 3 players averaging over 2 a game, and 4 averaging over 1. We have 5 players getting at least 1 steal a game, and if we’re being honest, we could stand to block more shots, but have had players recently working on their timing and blocking multiple shots / game.

We as a team need to get more efficient in our halfcourt offense, keep working on defensive rotations and communication, and handling the best teams’ defensive pressure. As we head into the second half of the season, those are going to be major focuses for us, as those are the types of things that are needed to make playoff runs.  We need to focus on our goals, play for each other, play under control when attacking, and shoot the ball more confidently. If we keep working, we can become a very fearsome team. We are currently 8-5, with the 5 losses coming only to top-10 teams in class AAAA – 1. (and national #1 or 2) Hopkins, 3. Wayzata, 5. STMA, 6. Rosemount (recently beat #2 Farmington!), and #7 Chaska. It was tough for our team to compete with such quality opposition so early in the season, but it has made us tougher, and we have to learn to compete with the best to become great. We are currently rated #8 in AAA. We have many tough section games and conference games ahead of us, and to win, we’ll have to stay healthy, keep getting more efficient on offense, over-communicating on defense, and coming together as a team, which our players have dedicated themselves to doing.

As we make our run at the second half, we hope to have your positive support for this group of special athletes. They want to be great, and are ready to continue the journey and their evolution as a team. Every season is a journey, and an evolution as teams adjust, get used to each other, and refine their identities. I’ve told them repeatedly, and I believe this with all of my heart, that it’ll take ALL OF THEM, playing their best, at their most focused and competitive, to make the run that they want to make, and Finish what we’ve started. We don’t know what each individual game may bring, who the opposition focuses on, and how the game’s inertia with shake out, so they must all stay ready, take shots when they are open, play with a combination of lineups, and push each other to get better every day! Here’s to a great 2020!