Before the basketball season started, Waconia High School girls coach Carl Pierson worked out a promotional agreement with a local restaurant. At selected home games, fans would receive a free appetizer in the restaurant at Island View Golf Club if the Wildcats scored 80 points or more.
The plan didn’t exactly go as envisioned, especially for the restaurant providing all the appetizers.
“After the first game or two, we had to move the number up to 90,” Pierson said. “It was obvious we were going to score 80 a lot.”
That is an understatement. The Wildcats are averaging 93 points per game, which is more than any other girls team in Minnesota. Among the 10 girls teams with the most points this season, six are averaging in the 60s, one averages 70 and two (New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and Maranatha Christian) average 80 or more. Waconia is at the top.
Eyebrows were initially raised after the Wildcats’ season opener, when they defeated St. Anthony Village 111-104 in a tournament at Hamline University. Waconia (Pierson and the team are pictured here) has scored 100 points or more five times since then (and given up 100 or more seven times). The most recent example was a 103-100 loss to Hutchinson on Friday night in a Wright County Conference game at Waconia. The first time those teams met this season, Hutchinson won 112-98.
“Our goal was to score 120 tonight, and I think if we shoot halfway decent free throws we get there,” said Hutchinson coach Tim Ellefson. Indeed, the Tigers made only 24 of 56 free throws.
Pierson made a drastic change in philosophy going into the season. Knowing that his team was undersized and would have trouble playing a half-court game against teams with more size, he decided to play a game of speed. The Wildcats run up the court and down the court, and then run on and off the court in two groups of five, with a few other players seeing playing time as needed. Their style usually forces the opposition to play equally fast. The Wildcats’ record this season is 7-11.
Lots of players play lots of minutes, lots of shots are taken – many from behind the three-point line – and players, officials and coaches are exhausted by game’s end.
“We sub so frequently,” Pierson said. “They just have to go as hard as they can for about two minutes and they get a break. My favorite line so far came after we played Buffalo. They beat us 112-104 and after the game (Buffalo coach) Scot Sorenson said, ‘I am exhausted.’ He just looked beat. He expended so much energy in that game.”
Hutchinson’s Ellefson said that during his team’s first meeting with Waconia, the iPad program they use to keep in-game statistics became useless when the score got to 100; the program was not built to handle triple digits.
At halftime of Friday’s game, the teams had combined for 103 points and 38 turnovers. That’s often the result of Waconia’s running, gunning style … high-scoring games with plenty of turnovers, fouls and free throws.
“We tried to put it all together into something that would fit our kids,” Pierson said. “It would work fantastically if we could make shots. We’re averaging 93 points a game but we’re not shooting the ball worth a lick.
“It’s very much an attacking style of offense. We put the ball in the hands of our point guard and say ‘Attack the rim.’ If somebody can kick out and shoot the three, we’ll do it. There’s not much to scout if you’re scouting us. We get shots off pretty quick.”
Junior point guard Anna Schmitt leads the Wildcats with a scoring average of 30 points per game. Also averaging in double figures are sophomore Madelin Dammann (13) and senior Miranda Schultz (12).
“There’s not a lot of standing around, obviously,” said Schmitt (pictured). “It’s fun. You get the team to shoot fast; if they make it or you get a rebound you’re pushing it as fast as you can right up the floor. It’s fun to get open shots all the time and knock them down.”
Pierson said the Wildcats’ style of play would be difficult without Schmitt.
“Anna is so fast and so explosive as a scorer. She’s worth the price of admission alone. She’ll shoot threes off the dribble, she’s unguardable. She’s averaging almost eight assists per game. She’d be averaging 10 or more if we would make some layups.”
Schmitt came into the season with 416 career points, and she has scored nearly 600 so far this season. She should reach the 1,000-point milestone this week.
Asked if his players were having fun, Pierson said, “The bottom line is they still want to win games, too. I think if we were 11-7 and not 7-11 it would be a lot easier to say yes.
“One thing I like about it is we get a lot more kids involved. There really is almost no such thing as a bad shot. Everybody has the green light all the time. It is entertaining for the fans.”
And oftentimes the fans get a free appetizer.
--To see a photo gallery from the Hutchinson-Waconia game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
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(*During the 2013-14 school year)
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