Girls Wildcat Basketball · Wildcats Lose a Heartbreaker

52 Robbinsdale Cooper
51 Waconia High School
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Robbinsdale Cooper vs Waconia High School
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2 23   26
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It was an emotional, physical back and forth battle in the 6AAA championship on Thursday night and when the final horn sounded the defending state champion Robbinsdale Cooper escaped with a 52-51 win and a 2nd straight trip to the AAA state tournament.
The Hawks flew out to an early 13-4 lead but the Wildcats clawed back. In fact, after the Cooper surge in the opening minutes the rest of the first half was all Wildcats. Waconia went on a 22-7 run to build a 26-20 lead late in the first half. Then with seconds left before halftime Cooper made a three trim the lead to three.
The second half was as intense and physical as the first with almost no basket coming easy for either team. The Wildcats built their lead as large as 6 points with 7 minutes to play, but four consecutive turnovers by the Cats opened the door for Cooper and the Hawks and they took advantage by going on an 8-0 run to take a 2 point lead.
Scoring would be far and few between for both teams in the final 5 minutes. Waconia went back up by 2 with 3 minutes to play. Cooper responded with a three to take a 1 point lead. Then as Cooper was trying to kill the clock to protect their narrow advantage Tess Johnson grabbed a steal with about a minute left and threw a long pass ahead to Audrey Swanson for a layup and a 51-50 Wildcat lead.
The Cats stopped Cooper on the next possession and it was Waconia ball with a 1 point lead and 30 seconds left. Then, as Jayda Lenz drove toward the basket her defender fell down directly in front of Lenz. Lenz proceeded to trip over the Cooper player losing the ball out of bounds. Nearly everyone in the gym was stunned when there was no foul call on the play, but it resulted in possession to Cooper with under 30 seconds left. The Wildcats were one more defensive stop away from the state tournament.
But Cooper’s all state guard, Aja Wheeler had one more big play left in her. She drove the left side of the court and threw up a very difficult 10 foot runner that banked in to give Cooper a 52-51 lead with 12 seconds left. Cooper had 2 fouls to give and they defended the Cats extremely well in the closing seconds to secure the win.
A look at the statistics conveys what an even battle it was.
Waconia was 20 for 60 from the floor (33.3%) while Cooper was 23 for 67 (34.4%). The Cats were a strong 9 for 10 from the line. The Hawks were 1 for 3. Waconia outscored Cooper in transition 18-10. Cooper bested the Wildcats 16-8 in points off turnovers. Waconia had a slight 36-32 edge on points in the paint and the Wildcats won the rebounding battle 47-38.
When looking at statistics perhaps the one Wildcat fans would find unusual is 3 point percentage. While Cooper was right in line with what they had shot all season (5 for 28 and 17.9%) the Cats very consistent perimeter shooting evaded them as they made only 2 of their 19 attempts (10.5%).
Tess Johnson led the scoring for Waconia with 12. Courtney Freeberg and Ava Stier joined her in double figures with 10 a piece. Natalie Meath and Audrey Swanson were the leading rebounders with 9 each. Freeberg and Stier both grabbed 8 rebounds.
Waconia ends the season 21 and 8. The Wildcats say a melancholy goodbye to their lone senior, Courtney Freeberg. “Fran” had as big an impact off the court as she did on it and she’ll be sorely missed. That said, the Cats return an outstanding core of talented players and should be a top flight team again next season.