PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Blood, sweat and cheers
No. 5 Marshall takes down No. 6 Waconia in battle of the unbeaten, 67-60
MARSHALL — Two teams with perfect records and spots just next to each other in the Class AAA rankings squared off in a pivotal matchup Thursday, with the No. 5 Marshall girls basketball team playing host to No. 6 Waconia. Both sporting 13-0 records on the season, Marshall and Waconia clashed in a physical and emotional battle for all 36 minutes, but when the dust settled, it was the Tigers who emerged with a 67-60 victory to remain unbeaten.
“We felt like our kids were just warriors. They battled and it was an extremely physical game; we haven’t been in one like that in a long time and we just feel fortunate to come out on top,” Marshall coach Dan Westby said. “That team we just played, they’re one of the best in the state and they’re tough. They’re kind of a three-headed monster, they’ve got three kids that are just major players and we feel fortunate to come out with a win.”
The tight play was evident right from the start, with both teams scoring on their opening possessions before trading points throughout the first half. Jordyn Hilgemann would get a layup to put Marshall up 8-7 with 15 minutes left in the frame, but Waconia quickly answered on its ensuing possession. The low-scoring affair continued over the next few minutes, as both sides started to get a little careless with the ball. The Wildcats then saw a little momentum with back-to-back baskets before connecting on a 3-pointer to take a 19-10 lead, but Marshall wasn’t done fighting.
Hilgemann would get a 3-pointer of her own before Abby Wendorff scored a layup to cut the deficit to just three at 19-16 near the midway mark. After a Hilgemann layup gave Marshall the lead back at 22-21 with 7:45 to play in the half, MHS turned to its press defense and were rewarded with a string of steals which it was able to convert into points on the other end. Layups from Wendorff and Hilgemann made it 29-23 before Bri Simpson connected on a 3-pointer to push Marshall’s advantage to 32-23 with 5:20 to go.
Waconia would have a response, though, getting a trio of baskets to draw to within four at 34-30, but Hilgemann got a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to give Marshall a 37-30 lead going into halftime.
Despite the deficit, the Wildcats brought the energy to start the second half, going on a 5-0 run before Hilgemann connected on a 3-pointer to make it 42-36 with 15:20 left. Marshall continued to maintain its lead over the next several minutes, with another triple by Hilgemann making it a nine-point game, but Waconia kept things close. The Wildcats slowly worked their way to a three-point deficit with seven minutes left before getting another basket to make it a one-point game at 54-53 a minute later.
In need of a spark, Marshall found it, as Hilgemann was fouled and made a basket before hitting the free throw for a crucial 3-point play to give MHS a 61-56 advantage with 3:37 left. It would stay that way on the scoreboard for the next couple of minutes before Waconia got a jumper to cut the deficit to three at 61-58 with 1:06 to go. But that was the closest the Wildcats got the rest of the way, as Ashleigh Steinbach made two free throws a few seconds later and Marshall iced the game at the line to earn the narrow victory.
Westby said it was important for them to get to halftime with a lead and felt his team did a good job of getting out in transition both on offense and defense throughout the second half.
“That run in the first half was key and it gave us that nice cushion at halftime, but then we came out and gave up three baskets in a row,” Westby said. “We talked to our kids before the game that this game was going to come down to who transitioned better, offensively and defensively. I think offensively it was maybe a wash, but defensively I think we won that battle a little bit, but they’re a great team.”
Hilgemann led Marshall with a season-high 35 points while Simpson added 13 and Wendorff had 10. Wendorff led in rebounds with eight while Hilgemann led in assists with three. Westby said he was pleased with their offensive outing as a group, adding that multiple players stepped up in key moments.
“67 points in a game against a team like that, you couldn’t really ask for more, that’s a good offensive effort by us,” Westby said. “We had a number of kids come in and make contributions and that’s what we’re going to need down the stretch where our bench is going to have to come in and give us some minutes.”
Marshall (14-0) will face Pipestone Area on the road on Monday at 7:15 p.m.
Marshall 67, Waconia 60
Waconia 30 30 – 60
Marshall 37 30 – 67
Scoring: Marshall (Hilgemann 11-20, 9-14 35; Simpson 4-10, 4-4 13; Wendorff 4-8, 2-5 10; Meier 0-6, 6-9 6; Steinbach 0-3, 2-2 2; Estrada 0-1, 1-2 1).
Rebounds: Marshall 23 (Wendorff 8; Hilgemann 7).
Assists: Marshall 6 (Hilgemann 3; Naughton 2; Simpson 1).
Steals: Marshall 17 (Hilgemann 6; Meier 5; Naughton 3).
Blocks: Marshall 3 (Wendorff, Hilgemann, Estrada 1).