With wins over Mound-Westonka and Hutchinson last week, the Waconia girls’ basketball team clinched back-to-back Wright County Conference titles. Although the season is still a week away from its conclusion, the Wildcats, with a perfect 8-0 WCC – East record, are too far ahead for second place Delano and Orono to catch up.
With the WCC now divided between large and small schools, there will be two conference champions. Waconia has claimed the large school side, while Annandale and Dassel-Cokato are still battling for the small schools.
“Our players really rose to the occasion whenever we had a key conference match up,” head coach Carl Pierson said. “They wanted to keep the championship trophy in Waconia and they took care of business.”
Waconia 81, M-W 50
It was clear which team would win the Feb. 5 contest between Waconia and Mound-Westonka. Six minutes into the game, the Wildcats had already opened a 20-2 lead, cruising to a very comfortable 51-17 halftime lead.
Waconia shot very well in the first half, making 35 of 61 shots (57 percent).
Such a secure halftime lead allowed many junior varsity players to log many minutes in the second half, as they kept the lead wide open. Before the junior varsity stepped in, the varsity regulars had pushed the Wildcats’ lead to nearly 50 points.
Eleven different players scored for Waconia, led by seniors Stephanie Dressen and Morgan Iverson, who both netted 15. Senior Fiona DeMario was a force on the court with 14 points, as was sophomore Anna Schmitt (11). Junior Miranda Schultz contributed eight points to the Wildcat effort, while freshman Madelin Dammann added another five. Waconia tallied 50 rebounds to Mound-Westonka’s 37, led by Dressen with nine boards and five blocked shots. DeMario pulled down seven rebounds for the ‘Cats.
Waconia 63, Hutch 47
The ‘Cats jumped out to an early lead and held a 34-25 lead at halftime. With around nine minutes to play, Waconia built up a 20-point lead.
Pierson said the contest challenged his players.
“It was a very physical game and officiated like a playoff game so it was great to see our players respond and rise to meet the challenge,” he said.
Waconia shot 34 percent from the floor (24-70), over Hutchinson’s 19-58 (33 percent). Schmitt (12), Iverson (10), Dressen (10), Jacobs (9), and Schultz (8) balanced the scoring for the Wildcats.
Waconia snagged 39 rebounds, including 17 while on offense. Dressen led with 11, followed by Iverson (9).
BSM 69, Waconia 54
Pierson wasn’t sure what happened against Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Feb. 8, but knows it wasn’t the team’s best showing.
“I don’t know if we had a let down after claiming the conference crown, but we certainly had one of our poorest performances of the season,” he said.
While the Red Knights shot 60 percent from the floor, the Wildcats trailed behind, converting only 17 of 44 shots (39 percent) and committing 24 turnovers.
The first half remained close, but Benilde-St. Margaret’s opened the game in the second half, on the tails of University of Minnesota recruit Grace Coughlin, who netted 31 points against Waconia.
Iverson led the Wildcat offense with 16 points, followed by Jacobs (12) and Dressen (11). The Red Knights outrebounded Waconia 43-26. Dressen had nine rebounds, while Schmitt collected five.
“We had an off night in every area but it didn’t damage us long term,” Pierson said. “However, if we play that way in two weeks, we’ll be turning in our uniforms.”
The Wildcats are 16-7 so far and will wrap up the regular season early next week. The ‘Cats will be at Glencoe-Silver Lake on Feb. 15 and will host Orono Feb. 19.
After defending their conference title, the Wildcats are focused on their second goal, the state tournament.
“Now we need to shift our focus to accomplishing the other primary goal and that is being the first Waconia girls’ basketball team to get to the state tournament,” Pierson said. “It won’t be easy, but if our players rise to the occasion again it can be achieved.”
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com