Wildcats split games at Eden Prairie tournament

Senior Alex Chandler powers up for the shot against Eden Prairie on Dec. 27.
Senior Alex Chandler powers up for the shot against Eden Prairie on Dec. 27.

Competing at Eden Prairie on Dec. 27 and 29, the Waconia boys’ basketball team fell to the host team, but went on to defeat Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

E. Prairie 61, Waconia 50

Against the No. 6 (4A) Eden Prairie Eagles on Dec. 27, the Wildcats held their own in the first half, only trailing by three at halftime (28-25).

“[A] physical game against a very good EP team,” Waconia head coach Pat Hayes said. “They took us out of our offensive flow early, which limited our shot selection and forced us to rush our offense.”

Hayes said the team defense and rebounding in the first half was solid.

Eden Prairie extended its lead to double digits in the second half, before a late Waconia rally would bring the Wildcats within four points. Strong free throw shooting down the stretch gave the Eagles the edge and the game.

Three Wildcats scored in double digits including junior Ryan Boll (14), senior Matt Rachey (12), senior Alex Chandler (11). Also scoring was senior Josh Lenz (6), junior Tommy Gove (6), and junior Jacob Herd (1). Waconia shot just 36 percent from the floor.

Senior Wylie Ferron grabbed nine of the ‘Cats 27 rebounds, followed by Boll (6), Chandler (6), and Rachey (3). Rachey and Lenz combined for four of the team’s seven steals.

Waconia 59, Benilde 47

At the same tournament last season, the Wildcats lost to the Red Knights by nearly 30 points (86-63). But this season, the Wildcats would be the ones on top, emerging with a 59-47 victory on Dec. 29.

“{I} thought we played well coming off the loss from Thursday and got out to a good start,” Hayes said.

The Red Knights thwarted the ‘Cats rhythm by using a zone defense early in the game, and Benilde led 31-28 at halftime.

In the second half, the team began making better decisions, according to Hayes, that allowed better shooting opportunities. Thanks to improved offense in the second half, and solid defense throughout the game, the Wildcats won the second half 31-23, and took the game as well.

From the floor, Waconia shot 44 percent, including making 15 of 29 two-point attempts. The Wildcats were 23-35 at the free throw line.

Boll (13) and Chandler (12) led the Wildcat attack, followed by Ferron (9), Gove (8), and Rachey (8).

Rachey led the team with nine rebounds, followed by Boll (5), Ferron (4), and Chandler (3). Chandler also had a team-high three steals.

The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 3 in Class 3A and are 7-2 this season. They return to action Jan. 8 at Hutchinson and will next be at home on Jan. 17 against Eden Prairie.