The Class 3A, Section 6 tournament is turning into a revenge tour for Waconia. The Wildcats have hosted two opponents this postseason who beat them on their home floor in the regular season — and they’ve reversed the outcome in both scenarios.
After defeating the No. 6 seed Orono on Tuesday, the Wildcats (17-11) took down No. 7 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s (9-19), 68-65, to advance to the section final where they will face off against No. 1 seed DeLaSalle on Thursday.
The win did not come easy for the Wildcats, as the Red Knights had a chance to send the game to overtime just before the buzzer sounded. The Red Knights, down by three, were able to force a turnover on an inbound play by the Wildcats, something coach John Moore was prepared for.
“I knew what they were going to do,” Moore said regarding the inbound play, where the Wildcats tried to send PJ Hayes toward the sideline to get fouled.
“I knew they were going to do that so we were going to trap whoever got the ball,” he said.
Waconia is moving on to the Class 3A, Section 6 championship after defeating Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 68-65, on Saturday.
The No. 3 seed Wildcats started the game off a bit slow, falling behind the No. 7 seed Red Knights 35-28 at halftime. Their sense of urgency seemed to pick up after the break, as the Wildcats (17-11) opened the second half on a 12-4 run to take a one-point lead.
Waconia extended its lead to nine points before the Red Knights responded, and upped their defensive pressure, forcing turnovers.
With 6.3 seconds left, the Wildcats, up by three, ran an inbound play that resulted in a turnover, giving the Red Knights the ball back. They ran a play that set up Dylan Drees with a wide-open three-point attempt to tie the game, but his effort rattled off the rim and sent the Wildcats to the section final.
Drees had an impressive performance in the game, leading the Red Knights (9-19) with 19 points and adding six rebounds and four blocks. Nick Peterson was also a handful for the Wildcats, with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Waconia's P.J. Hayes finished with a game-high 20 points.
The Wildcats, with the chance to win their section for the first time since 2015, will face the winner of the semifinal between DeLaSalle and Minneapolis Henry.
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