The Waconia girls’ basketball team sure put its name on the map of talented Minnesota teams this season. Featured in various news and television outlets, the Wildcats were well-deserving, joining some of the top-ranked national teams in terms of scoring.
After the 2013-14 season, where the Wildcats finished 10-16 overall, the team is now on three Minnesota and national records lists.
The Wildcats are the fifth-highest scoring team in national history and set the Minnesota state record after averaging 92.4 points per contest this season.
Waconia made 325 three-pointers throughout the year, second all-time in national history and setting a Minnesota state record, out of a record-setting 1,247 attempts (sets both Minnesota and national all-time records). The Wildcats also reset the state’s single-game records for most three-pointers and highest scoring games multiple times.
The Wildcats posted an incredible 122 points in an overtime win against Glencoe-Silver Lake on Feb. 24, where the Panthers scored 115 points for the highest scoring girls’ game in state history.
The “lowest” scoring game of the Wildcats’ season was still an impressive 65 points, in a loss to Chaska on Dec. 13.
“I think our players can take pride in the fact that they rewrote the state and national record books,” WHS head coach Carl Pierson said. “We knew that on paper, we didn’t match up with many of our opponents but through our unique style of play, we had a chance to win 22 of the 26 games we played.”
That unique style wore at many opposing teams, as the Wildcats adapted a line change system, similar to a hockey program. For just a few minutes, five players would run as fast as possible, taking multiple shots and generally out-conditioning their opponents, before a set of five fresh players would substitute in to do the same.
While that system worked on the scoreboard, it struggled on defense, allowing WHS’ opponents to also post shockingly high scores. Fifteen times this season, at least one team scored over 100 points, and in those games, the Wildcats were just 4-11.
“It was difficult to be on the wrong end of so many close games,” Pierson said. “There were several games where we had a lead late and couldn’t get the big rebound or the big stop to earn the victory.”
This proved true in the Wright County Conference play, as WHS finished fifth of six teams in the WCC’s East division with a 5-10 record.
Pierson said the team performed hard each game, which allowed the Wildcats to dictate the tempo and get multiple players significant varsity time.
“We called on at least 12 kids to contribute every game,” he said. “Our team’s attitude was outstanding through the course of the season.
The Wildcats are losing four seniors who helped to carry the team this season. Miranda Schultz, a three-year varsity veteran, posted 276 points this season, along with 94 rebounds and 64 steals. Pierson described her as “durable.”
“We could count on her to be at every practice and play in every game,” he said.
Kaylee Vanderhoff leaves some big defensive shoes to fill, after blocking 49 of the team’s 74 total blocked shots this year. She also collected 145 rebounds, 45 steals, and 183 points.
“We are hopeful some of our younger players can step into her role but she set the bar pretty high,” Pierson said.
Sam Laumann and Nicole Dressen may not have contributed as many minutes, but served as “outstanding role models” for the younger players, Pierson said.
“Both had to demonstrate perseverance, battling back from knee surgery, and both carried themselves with great dignity and a team-first attitude when they were asked to play a role off the bench,” Pierson said.
Behind the strong leadership of this season’s seniors, there are at least nine returning varsity players who saw significant minutes this season. But those returners won’t necessarily give Waconia an advantage.
“That is the theme of our conference,” Pierson said. “Nearly all the top teams in the league return their top players.”
Junior Anna Schmitt and sophomore Madelin Dammann will return as the team’s two leading scorers. This year, Schmitt knocked in an impressive 775 points, which pushed her over the 1,000 career points mark and made her just the sixth Wildcat in program history to hit 1,000. She also dished out a team-high 148 assists and grabbed 95 steals.
Dammann posted 339 points in her sophomore season and along with Schmitt, will be expected to anchor the team again next season. Dammann grabbed 141 rebounds and 59 steals, and blocked seven shots.
“They key to our season next year, though, will be if we can get consistent production out of six or seven players,” Pierson said. “Our bench players started to play really well the final two weeks of the season. Hopefully that carries over to next season.”
Junior Kendall Eder and sophomore Ally Fuller scored over 100 points this season, scoring 157 and 103 points, respectively. Eder grabbed 32 steals, while fellow junior Kelsey Eder snagged 39. Sophomore Emily Anderson became a force on defense and grabbed 117 total rebounds and 43 steals.
“We have a lot of key players coming back and the work ethic they have leads me to believe we’re going to be on the right end of most of the close games next season,” Pierson said.
Schmitt was the team’s only All-Conference selection for the 2013-14 season, while Schultz and Dammann were All-Conference Honorable Mention. Schmitt was also nominated for the All-State team. Those results will be available early next week.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com