For two years, the Waconia boys’ basketball team has traveled to MSU – Mankato in search of a state berth. And twice the Wildcats have been sent home empty handed.
In a 56-48 upset, the No. 2 seeded Marshall Tigers defeated the No. 1 seeded Wildcats on March 14 in the Section 2AAA finals. Waconia head coach Pat Hayes said the night was frustrating for both the team and the coaching staff.
“We weren’t able to defend [Marshall] early and couldn’t execute offensively,” he said.
Despite struggles, the Wildcats trailed by just four points at halftime, 21-17, and even took a slight lead near the beginning of the second half.
But as the Tigers locked down their defense, the Wildcat attack fell short as shot after shot failed to go in for Waconia. Hayes credits Marshall’s skill for opening a 17-point Tiger lead, but said the Wildcats lost confidence as Marshall’s lead grew.
Finally, the Wildcats were able to put together a rally and gradually closed Marshall’s lead, but the clock ran out with Waconia still down by eight. The Wildcats lost 56-48.
Hayes said there was nothing to be overly disappointed with as a team.
“It was just one of those nights when you don’t want to struggle offensively in a game of that magnitude,” he said. “It’s easy to pass the blame, but in the end result it comes down to who we put on the floor and how we prepare them.”
Typically a strong shooting squad, the Wildcats had one of their poorest shooting nights of the season. The ‘Cats were 16-49 (33 percent) from the floor, including 12-38 (32 percent) in two-point shots. Free throw shooting was more of the norm at 63 percent (12-19).
Junior Ryan Boll led the team with 17 points. Also scoring for Waconia was junior Jacob Herd (9), senior Wylie Ferron (8), senior Matt Rachey (7), senior Josh Lenz (4), and senior Alex Chandler (3).
Defensively, the Wildcats had 30 rebounds, led by Ferron (9), Chandler (7), Boll (5), and Lenz (5). Boll, Chandler, and sophomore Avery Talton each blocked a shot. Lenz snagged two steals, while Boll, Chandler, Ferron, Herd, and Rachey each grabbed one.
Although the outcome may not have been what the team was looking for, Hayes said he was proud of the Wildcats.
“We could have easily just folded up in the second half,” he said. “But they fought back and got as close as they could.”
Look for a full wrap up next week.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com