‘Cats face Blake in first round

Update: The Waconia Wildcats defeated the Blake Bears 66-46 on Feb. 25. WHS will now advance to Saturday night’s semifinal game against No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Game starts at 6 p.m. at Chanhassen High School.

Once in contention for their sixth consecutive Wright County Conference title, the Waconia boys’ basketball team had to settle for third place last week after a loss to Orono.

Junior Oliver Smith (left) takes a shot during the Wildcats’ Feb. 18 game against Orono

Junior Oliver Smith (left) takes a shot during the Wildcats’ Feb. 18 game against Orono

At 11-3 overall, the Wildcats finished third in the WCC behind Orono (12-3) and Holy Family Catholic (14-1).

Falling to Orono 60-54 in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 18, WHS head coach Pat Hayes said the Spartans came ready to play, making big shots and laying down a strong defense.

“We were a little out of sync in the first half, but strong play by Roch Whittaker and Oliver Smith kept us within two points,” he said. “We played better defense in the second half, but just couldn’t knock down enough shots at the end.”

Trailing 32-30 at halftime, the Wildcats were outscored in the second half 28-24 on their way to a 60-54 loss.

Senior Jacob Herd and junior Roch Whittaker led the Wildcats on offense, scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively. Senior Ryan Boll added nine points to the WHS effort.

Team shooting was a little cooler than in recent Wildcat games, as WHS shot just over 42 percent from the floor (19-45). Free throws continued to be strong, as Waconia made 13 of 17 (76.5 percent).

On defense, junior Oliver Smith and Whittaker led in rebounds, with nine boards for Smith and eight for Whittaker.

Junior Roch Whittaker helped lead the Wildcats to victory with eight rebounds in that game. (Patriot staff photos by Melissa Marohl)

Junior Roch Whittaker helped lead the Wildcats to victory with eight rebounds in that game. (Patriot staff photos by Melissa Marohl)

Waconia finished the regular season 17-8 and drew the No. 3 seed in Section 6AAA. The Wildcats hosted No. 6 Blake on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The victor advances to Saturday’s game at 8 p.m. in Chanhassen against the victor of No. 7 Mound-Westonka/No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

The Blake Bears are defending Section 6AAA champions and are 12-14 this season. Led by two strong seniors in John Veil and JR Bascom, the Wildcats will have to bring their A-game to pull off a victory, despite the higher seed.

“Blake [has] good perimeter shooters this year,” Hayes said. “Should be a very competitive game.”

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