Both Holy Family and Waconia shot the ball exceptionally well in the first half, but due to better communication, closeouts, and discipline on defense, the Wildcats had a better half in the second and beat the rival Fire, who has been playing very well as of late, 77-63.
As per usual, the game was won by committee. We talk about it all the time, but it always deserves reiteration – teams that can go inside out, swing the ball, and play for each other, instead of for individual stats, are truly dangerous, and when we do it well, we are really good. Even though we have room to improve, and are getting better, we still have a ceiling we haven’t reached, but if our players remain unselfish and know that it’ll take every single one of them to achieve their goal of becoming a great team, we can achieve our goals.
In the first half, a slow start on defense hindered us; we didn’t communicate or switch the handoff offense the way that we should’ve, and the Fire made us pay by jumping out to an early lead. However, once we started to play good team defense, we were able to right the ship. Tess Johnson had a couple of nice steals for layups that helped shift momentum, and then, hitting 3’s also helped, as we hit 8 in the first half! Mel Honnold hit 4 herself, Sydney Olson hit 3, and Tess Johnson hit 1 as well. At halftime, the coaching staff pointed out that when you hit 3’s, it’s awesome, and it happens because our posts are a factor, but a team can never rely on hitting 3’s to win, because as the old saying goes, you can “live and die by the 3,” so we talked about how we have to also get the ball inside – not force it, but look for our posts who were doing a good job sealing. When we go inside out, and guards dig it out from our posts, and they look to kick to guards, then everyone is involved in the offense, and that’s what it takes for teams to be great. As long as we keep sharing the ball, knowing how posts create space for guards, and guards and shooters create for posts, we’ll have good team chemistry and keep getting better!
Stats for rebounding, steals, assists, etc. are still being tabulated. I do wan to recognize our communication on D is getting better, and it must still continue to be louder; It takes everyone on the team to do this, and it’s in the process! Also defensively, I want to point out how well Jayda Lenz closed out on shooters in the second half – she got in their space while sprinting, was under control, and picked one with good clean defense, and it was a difference maker for us. Once we started switching a bit more aggressively, we really got better, and Mel Honnold also had a crazy sequence where she switched, lunged at a shooter without jumping, the shooter pulled it back and then panic-passed it to another girl, Honnold switched onto her, and then we forced them into a rushed shot – that was another great effort that’s made possible by two things: individual toughness/focus, and her teammates being in good position! When we focus, we can be great defensively.
Scoring-wise, another good balanced effort with 4 in double figures: Stier with 21, Olson with 14, Honnold with 12, and Johnson with 11. Also scoring were Meath with 6 (and a couple of good finishes in traffic), Swanson with 4, Zimmer with 4 (and a great, under-control pull-up jumper), Lenz with 2, Dykstra with 2, and Salzer with 1.
We are now 13-6, and 5-1 in the conference.
The 9th grade team racked up another huge win, beating the Fire, and a bunch of great teamwork on the defensive end was evident, as they held the Fire to 12 points. Special mention to Paige Wickenhauser, who must have had about 7-8 steals on the game, picking people’s pockets like a master thief.
The bus to STMA leaves at 1:50 PM, and all levels are on it. The schedule is a bit crazy, with JV and B playing before the 9th grade, and then the Varsity playing at the Middle School location, but doublecheck the schedules for the event to make sure! Can’t wait to see you there!