Wildcats News · Waconia Wildcats advance to State Tournament for first time in school history!

Well, that was spectacular. The key to advancing to the State tournament for the first time in WGBB history was defense, and we held Marshall to the goal that we always set for a game: 50 points or under. If we can hold them to under 50, we feel as if we have a shot at winning the game, and we held them to only 1 point in the final 4 minutes to keep them right on that number. We did it through physicality, help defense, and pressuring the ball at all times. We did enough to disrupt their offense’s timing and keep the ball out of the low post (except for the myriad mad scrambles for rebounds that were a hallmark of this very physical game). Marshall’s Hilgemann scored 18, some on incredibly tough shots, 5 at the FT line, and around 6 out of the press’ turnovers, but we were able to hold their posts, who were dominant against St. Peter, to 6 and 5 respectively through backside help, communication, and good digging on drives. This was one of our best defensive performances of the season, and is what powered us to victory.
After last year’s section finals end (loss by 1 point), we always talk about opening up a cushion down the stretch of games so that it’s not a 1 possession game, where anything can happen to any team, and we were able to open up just such a lead, but we knew that we couldn’t be comfortable for a second, because Marshall can erase a lead in mere seconds.
This was another full team effort – the bench was wild (almost got T’d up for being so crazy – that’s awesome! That’s the environment we always dream of for this sort of game), we had players step up when we had 5 or 6 players with 2 fouls in the first half, and we made plays throughout that kept the margin at no less than 5 in the second half. I will keep saying this for the rest of my days: our depth is our strength. We can trust everyone on our team to step in and do what it takes with the game on the line, and we did that when the stakes couldn’t have been higher.
Audrey Swanson was spectacular, and Tess Johnson was finding her wherever she went. Audrey had 22 points on 8-9 shooting (!!!!)(1-1 from 3!), with 6 boards, 3 steals, and an assist. Johnson had 8 points, 7 assists, 3 steals and 4 rebounds in a spectacular all-around game. Ava Stier battled much foul trouble (it was not, disappointingly, “no foul Friday!”), but still had 8 points, 10 boards, and a block. Zimmer had 7 points, 3 boards, and an assist, attacking the press and handling it with a cool head. Mel Honnold played spectacular D, causing many crazy bounces, netting 3 steals, and causing a bunch of others as well. Her toughness in digging out dribble drives was a huge key to holding them to only 50 points, and she also dished two assists. Addy Salzer had 7 points, 2 boards, an assist, and two huge blocks, and did a great job on Hilgemann as well. Natalie Meath and Dani Dykstra played excellent defense all night long on really tough Marshall posts, and held them to 6 and 5 respectively, and that was huge, because they looked spectacular in their win over St. Peter, who has good bigs of their own. Both Meath and Dykstra also hit a bit shot right when we needed one to help keep the lead what it was. Meath also gathered 7 boards and had two big steals, and Dykstra had 3 boards as well.
I mentioned our bench before, but it really was spectacular to have them so loud, for so long, and right when it mattered. They did a spectacular job as scout team this week, and knew all of the plays that we asked them to learn of Marshall’s. Marshall often doesn’t run much of the same stuff in the post season as they do in the regular, but when they did, we did a good job on it because of our scout team, so this is a total team win.
I finally re-watched the game again tonight, and it’s starting to sink in – the immensity of the effort and focus we had for this game was off-the-charts, and it took everything that we had to make history, getting us to the state tournament for the first time ever. We’ve had some really rough losses over the years here, just in my 14 years, and to finally see our team step up when it’s hardest was immensely gratifying. I’m so proud of all that we’ve done so far, and now it’s time to go forth and send the next message – we’re coming.
Seeding meeting is tomorrow morning, and I’ll let everyone know what and when and who, and it’ll be really interesting to see where the other coaches put us (we can’t, of course, vote for ourselves). No matter who the opponent is: we’re not done. Let’s go and rip it from anyone who stands in our way!