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Posted On: 11/30/18 12:55 PM
Waseca’s deep class of sophomore talent outlasted Waconia 79-64 with the help of a few veteran friends. NHR was in the building to see the Jays victory, here is our “Five Things to Know”
The Best Group of Sophomores in the State. There are some good groups of sophomores around the state of Minnesota. East Ridge, DeLaSalle, Hopkins, and Lakeville South all have many talented 2021s that will play big roles this year, but it’s quite doubtful that anyone has the amount of sophomores making heavy contributions that Waseca does.
The leading scorer for the Jays last night was Andrew Morgan, a 6-foot-8 frontcourt player who is quick off his feet and has a really nice touch facing the basket from about 15 feet and in. Morgan made 9 of 10 field goals scoring a team high 21 points while also grabbing a dozen boards.
Waconia really doesn’t have a guy playing true lead guard right now and that was a problem. Ryan Dufault’s ability to control the possession was something the Cats couldn’t contain. Dufault had five assists but also put the ball down to penetrate to scoring position. He scored his 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting with three threes and 5 of 6 foul shooting. Love his deep handle and quick push to space.
Then there Is Kyreese Willingham, a 6-foot-4 wing. Kyreese was defending PJ Hayes more often than others forcing the Waconia shooter to score over Willingham’s length. Kyreese has great lateral quickness plus the type of strength that can’t get knocked around. The younger Willingham scored 13 points on 4 of 10 shooting (hit a couple threes).
The surprise of the night for me was sixth man Zach Hoehn, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard. The Jays saw zero drop off in play when Zach entered the game. In fact his four threes for 13 points actually helped changed the game.
That’s four of the top six guys on Waseca, but wait, there’s more. Five-foot-11 ball pressuring guard Tave Ball played most of the second half, 6-foot-4 Matt Seberson also earned some minutes, and 6-foot-2 forward Dravyn Sipes was also one of the first ten guys the Jays played.
Once again, all seven of these players are sophomores.
Pulling the Right Strings. Waconia’s veteran line-up actually pushed their team to a 13-5 early game advantage prompting Waseca coach Seth Anderson to call a time out. It was at the perfect and the perfect way to refocus his players. The young guys quickly fell in line going on an 11-0 run that gave his team the lead the rest of the way. I also loved the way Waseca’s defense is structured/taught which allowed them to switch screens perfectly throughout the game. It was a big edge for the Jays to switch every screen and have a defender in the perfect position to defend whatever Waconia tried to do. And remember, most of these players are sophomores.
The Leader. It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve seen a frontcourt player have the impact on the game without shooting or blocking shots the way 6-foot-3 offensive guard framed Matt Olsem did for Waseca last night. There were so many things to love:
Mr. Basketball Candidate. This was not the way that Malik Willingham was picturing his season starting off. Malik had an unusually tough night shooting the ball making 3 of 10 field goals but he impacted the game in several other ways grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists.
Early in the second half Malik was whistled for what I thought was a very, very weak third foul. Moments later when a player tried to steal the ball from Malik and dove to the floor, the official felt that as the player was falling Malik gave him an extra shove or bump, so with 16 minutes to go in the half it was foul four.
Malik of course sat down and then later in the second half the official who whistled those early half two fouls on Malik (and pretty much made every other call on the evening oddly behaving in a way like this was his show to control) called a bench technical. It’s not clear who it was on and most people looked very confused as to what happened but Malik never played again after coming out with four fouls and 16 minutes to go. Maybe Malik wasn’t needed again or maybe he was whistled for the technical, who knows.
We do know this, Waseca was really good, Malik was working towards a triple-double on a bad shooting night, Malik will have many more good nights, and the official may or may not have been in the right on some (or all) of those calls but the officials attempted control of the game was Ed Hightower like.
The Outlook of the Wildcats. The Waconia Wildcats always play a tough schedule preparing themselves for a very tough round of section play (they are in the DeLaSalle section). By the time this team gets to the second half of the year they will be a tough squad. Coach Pat Hayes does a great job teaching his players and this year’s team currently doesn’t have a lot of experience.
PJ Hayes has a natural scoring touch and the type of scorer’s feel that puts him in position to use his 6-foot-5 guard size to finish plays. The Wildcats don’t yet have a true point or a low post scoring threat so a lot of the offense has to go through PJ.
Last night Hayes scored 29 points on 10 of 25 shooting which is 40 percent (a solid percentage considering what he had to face) from the floor over a very good defense. Hayes is going to have solid numbers and as his teammates get more comfortable he won’t have to work quite as hard to get to space to score. That said, the ability of Hayes to separate into space, or to more off ball into scoring position helps make him one of the better junior scorers.
6-5 Waconia junior forward Connor Schwob continues to grow as a player. He had a really nice 16u season for Minnesota Select and is now a starter as a junior. Connor hit a three and scored 10 while grabbing five rebounds and moving the ball for four assists. When he gets more comfortable on varsity he’s going to be quite good. Six-foot-3 senior shooting guard Sam Nelson also scored ten including two early threes for Waconia.