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Waconia Wins MN Invitational Tournament

July 27, 2014
Waconia Girls Basketball MN

     The Waconia Wildcats claimed the championship of the Minnesota Invitational Tournament on Sunday after an impressive weekend of basketball.

     Action opened on Saturday with a convincing 56-28 win over Christ’s Household of Faith (better known as CHOF). Freshman Sidney Zieske led the team with 12 points. She also led in defensive points (a category combining defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, and steals) with 8. The Cats shot a frigid 17% on threes, but a stout defense kept CHOF at bay. The win set up a second round matchup versus perennial AA power New London-Spicer.

     Turnovers troubled the Waconia offense throughout much of the first half, and when the team did get shots off they shot only 35%. NL-S held a 24-19 halftime lead. The Cats would get down by as much as 8 in the second half but they clawed back to draw within three points with 10 seconds to play. That is when senior Kelsey Eder stepped up and hit a deep 3 with just 5 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

     The teams traded baskets during the 3 minute overtime, but Waconia maintained a 2 point lead with 15 seconds left. Then NL-S scored a bucket and drew a foul. The free throw was made putting NL-S up 1 with seconds remaining. Senior Kendall Eder knew she couldn’t let her twin sister have all the glory though, so she decided to make a clutch 3 of her own with 5 seconds left to propel Waconia to a 54-52 win. Anna Schmitt led the scoring with 16 and Emily Anderson led in defensive points with 12.

     The win insured the Wildcats would be in the division one “Final Four” on Sunday, so their game versus conference foe Hutchinson was solely to determine seeding. Waconia would earn a 29-23 halftime lead, though the margin should have been larger. The Cats couldn’t convert easy opportunities in the paint and they shot just 35% from the free throw line.

     It was the 3 point shot that kept the Cats in the game. The team was 14 for 32 outside the arc (43.8%) but the struggles to cash in layup opportunities continued in the second half as Waconia would finish the game making just 4 of their 23 shots in the paint (17.3%). The inability to finish layups would cost the Cats as they fell to the Tigers 59-54.

     Waconia would be #2 seed in the “Final Four” where they faced undefeated Kenyon-Wanamingo for a spot in the championship game. The Knights were class AA runner-up at last year’s state tournament and they had steamrolled through their bracket on Saturday, but the dominant team in Sunday’s matchup was Waconia. The Cats controlled the first half, building a 43-26 lead. The layups that eluded the team the night before were falling, though the 3 pointers weren’t. The Cats were just 5 for 23 on three’s in the first half, but again it was their defense that anchored them and helped them build a comfortable lead.

     The Knights would never get closer than 15 in the second half and the Wildcats continued their strong play to coast to an 80-55 win. Emily Anderson and Anna Schmitt led the team with 12 defensive points a piece and Madelin Dammann, Kendall Eder, Tatum Johnson, and Schmitt each reached double figures in scoring.

     Hutchinson topped Buffalo in their semi-final matchup so the re-match was set, but this time with hardware at stake.

     Despite shooting just 33% from the floor in the first half, Waconia would hold a 35-30 advantage at the break. The Tigers had shot with much greater proficiency, but despite that they couldn’t keep pace with the Cats. In the second half Waconia would pull away. The Cats kept Hutch scoreless for the first 4 minutes of the second half and they converted in transition to stretch the lead to 12. Things continued to click for Waconia as the lead would grow to as much as 23 with just under 5 minutes to go. Hutch hit some threes in the closing minutes to cut into the lead and make the final margin 77-63 in favor of Waconia.

      Anna Schmitt poured in 23 points and Ally Fuller added 14. Schmitt was the leader in defensive points with 11 while Emily Anderson added 10.

     Waconia will conclude their summer season Aug 2 and 3 at the prestigious “Sweet 16 Tournament”. The annual August event features 4 of the top teams from each of the state’s four classes. The Cats will face AA power Chatfield in their first round game at 12:40pm on Saturday. Chatfield returns nearly every player from their 25-1 team. Other teams on Waconia's side of the bracket include White Bear Lake (AAAA), Red Lake (A), Orono (AAA), Redwood Valley (AA), Goodhue (A) and Hopkins (AAAA).

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