By Jason Hirdler
Christmas did not come early for the White Hawks girls basketball team, but the Grinch did steal a win on Dec. 21 – and by Grinch we mean the Waconia Wildcats.
The White Hawks showed promise throughout the first half, but this game was the proverbial “Tale of Two Halves.”
Coming in as the underdogs, Westonka came out swinging, as senior tri-captains Jen Schaible and Ela Springer put up a quick five points. Springer muscled in the first two points, and Schaible dropped in a 3-point rainbow in front of the opposing team’s bench.
After a hard-hitting defensive turnover, Springer tossed up a jump shot from inside the 3-point line, followed her shot as the ball careened off the rim, and scored the next two points for the team. Springer similarly lit up the court on defense in the first half, blocking shots and scrapping for rebounds.
Senior tri-captain Maya Thurston also had a notable first half, as she threw some monstrous “shot blocks” and some quick-handed steals, leaving the Waconia coach holding tight to his wallet around the quick-handed 5’11” forward. One of Thurston’s defensive turnovers led to an assist to junior Melissa Drill for a 2-point layup.
Stealing the ball became contagious, as Drill had some steals of her own. She also performed well on the offensive side of the ball; at one point her baskets kept the score tied at 26-26 with 3 minutes left in the first half. Drill’s aggressive moves on offense looked somewhat artistic. On the next play, the defense forced another turnover as the ball found its way to Schaible. Schaible put up a short “jumper” that gave the White Hawks the go-ahead points, making the score the 28-26.
Meanwhile, up-and-coming luminary freshman Megan Wanner showed her athleticism and high-flying skills when she slapped the ball away from Waconia’s 5’7” point guard but drew a contested foul called by guest referee, Scotty B.
Senior Melissa Christlieb also contributed to the competitive first half with a steal from the lanky Wildcat 5’10” forward, and with a quick pass to Schaible, the Hawks scored another two points. Christlieb also drew a foul as she implemented a breakaway from an unsuspecting Waconia point guard. However, after a couple fast breaks by the Wildcats, the score at halftime favored the Cats, 40-30.
The second half started out with the girls playing like they were still inspired, with Schaible putting in a couple of 3-point baskets, and Drill showing her “never say die” work ethic. Midway through the second half, Drill grabbed the ball from Waconia’s offense, passed to Springer and watched as Springer’s ball kissed the glass and dropped through the net like creamed corn.
But as the second half progressed, the wheels began to slowly come off the bus. The Wildcats showed why they have a reputation for being a formidable basketball team. They forced numerous turnovers and started running up the score. The White Hawks coaching staff injected some fresh legs into the game, which gave a spark of energy. Sophomores Greta Blanck and Sydney Eidsness, as well as junior Sam Otto, showed eagerness to play as they came off the bench. But as the clock ticked down, the Wildcats did not look back and finished the game scoring a total of 86 points. By the end of regulation, the White Hawks weathered the storm as best they could, finishing the game with the score 86-52.
One silver lining for the White Hawks – scoring 52 points against a highly-ranked team, such as Waconia, is very respectable, and the girls can hold their heads high. UFC Professional Anderson Silva once said, “Life is about how much you can take and keep fighting, how much you can suffer and keep moving forward.”
Coaches Corner with Alan Hiebert: “Waconia is an excellent basketball team. They were able to capitalize on getting to what seemed like all the loose or contested balls. We shot the ball well overall and competed hard but couldn’t overcome their athleticism. If we see them again in the playoffs, we’ll have to do a better job of following our blueprint for winning games. They got us to play their tempo, and they made us pay.”