Orono at Waconia. Both teams 14-1 in the Wright County Conference. Both ranked top ten in state. The game was for the conference championship and the crowd was jacked. In a gym with 30 rows of seats on each side 70 percent of the attendees were wearing black. Pumped up to ACDC's "Back In Black", pumped up for senior night, and pumped up to be playing their Orono rivals.
For the small group of students dressed in white they represented themselves well. Orono's student fan base was late to the dance but they forced their way into the upper southwest corner of the gym and were actually more ruckus and boisterous than Waconia's massive student section just a couple areas over. But in the end it was Waconia's crowd that had the last laugh and the most fun.
In addition to the "Black Out" and the ACDC music the fans were treated to several other little pieces of fun entertainment. Programs released honoring the seniors. Pizza Ranch pizzas were passed around the Waconia student section while Jason Derulo was played. "Everybody's looking for love" Jason sang and the students said "Oh. Oh!" "Ain't that the reason you're at this club," the speakers blared and Waconia followed, "Oh. Oh!" Having fun, dancing and singing the crowd saw the Waconia players enter and they went nuts. Those in black were then asked to line the sidelines and baselines to honor those seniors. Danny Fischbach, Patrick Logelin, Mike Brown, and Logan Sohns went around the gym high fiving and hugging fans, friends, and family. Three of the seniors joined Shelby Moats and an extremely jacked up Bronson Scheff in the starting line-up and away things went.
On a game to game basis Waconia is led by the 21.2 points per game from Moats along with the 11 a game from both Fischbach and junior Ben Kortuem and the nine points a night provided by Scheff. Countering this talent was Orono's Jordan Smith whose 22.7 points a game continues to rank him amongst the best junior scorers in the state. From there no other Spartan scores in double figures game by game although junior Jeremy Borg and sophomore Brady Wohler are close averaging over nine a night.
The scoring pattern of Friday night's Wright County Conference championship game held about true to form it's just that Shelby Moats had a little more to give. He didn't score much right away but then again neither did anybody else. Clank! Smash! Bam! Crash! It was like the word bubbles from the old time Batman series as there was violent contact with the rim resulting in thudding noises. Nobody could hit early and Shelby seemed to clean up all the messes gathering a dozen rebounds in the first half.
Jordan Smith struggled to find the bottom of the net at the start missing his first five field goal attempts but what he did do was establish himself as a threat to get past the Wildcat defense. His first attempt saw him attack with his right hand from the wing and getting all the way to the rim only to miss over the Shelby Moats reach. But Jordan had beaten his man to the middle and the threat was there.
Orono took an early lead as Smith found his stroke hitting a three from the wing followed by a drive to the rim that missed but got Jordan to the foul line for two free throw makes. Next came a spot up jumper made on the baseline from 15 feet, two more free throws, and then a beautiful pull-up jumper (I didn't think it was a three at the time but it must have been according to the final scoring totals) that was extremely well timed with quickness, finesse, and a final touch. The kids in white were now in the corner dancing and taunting both the elementary (and middle school) Waconia kids behind them and the huge section of Wildcat high schoolers to their left.
Orono junior Daniel Drew nailed back to back threes just before the halfitme buzzer allowing the Spartans to go into the break up 28 to 22. Orono had done a nice job of limiting Shelby in the first half even though Moats scored nine points. Moats was stripped a couple times and had his shot deflected or blocked outright two more times. However, his scoring would not be held down for much longer. The Wildcat students were a little quiet, a little down but then the paper airplane toss into the center of the court distracted all of them and it was fun for them to be in Waconia once again.
Coach Pat Hayes must of looked at his team and spoke about offensive patience and ball movement to help clear Shelby inside because when they came out Waconia went straight to their stud. He powered in one lay-in, a second, and then a third while being fouled. Seven fast points from Moats and Waconia took the lead.
Two minutes later Shelby was hacked hard and went to the line to make a pair of free throws and the next possession he had a shot partially blocked but went after it again and scored on the put-back. Now up five points Waconia received an enormous three-pointer from Korteum and the Men (and women) in Black went ballistic. Orono coach Barry Wohler grabbed a time-out because the Wildcats opened the second half with a 16-3 run. It was about that time that Minnesota Gopher assistant Saul Smith started to get spotted by the crowd looking on in the standing section of the northeast gym corner.
Orono caught a little momentum when Moats turned the ball over and Jordan Smith went the other way to get a spot up three-pointer. Orono scored a couple times more and the fans in white jumped up and down by a four minute Spartan run. They would be sent back to silence by a Fischbach three, two Fischbach free throws, a monster rebound, and a 47-42 Waconia lead that would expand.
It was now Shelby Moats time. First he hit a three and then Moats cleared the lane with great low post position to catch, drop step, and finish deep in the purple Waconia paint. A barrage of free throw makes followed. Jordan Smith used his penetration to open teammates, which Jordan found with great passes but most of the attempts came up empty. Meanwhile Shelby kept making free throws and "We Are Number One!" was raining down from the near thousand in black. The numbers ticked down and the scoreboard said 59 to 49 when the time was at all zeros.
The celebration was on. More Jason Derulo? No, no, no. Waconia may becoming a lot more suburban but it isn't there yet. "Glory Days. Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye, Glory days, glory days!". It was Bruce Springsteen that had the kids on the floor dancing away both students and players alike. Heck, I think I even saw coach Hayes give a chest bump! All in good fun for a 15-1 Wright County season.
Moats finished the game making eight of 18 field goals and 12 of 13 free throws for 29 points to go with 20 rebounds while Fischbach scored an important 14 point. In a losing effort Jordan Smith had 19 points on five of 18 shooting that included four three-pointers and five of six foul shooting. Waconia outscored Orono 37-21 in the second half.
Orono will next play Becker this Thursday night as they are the one seed in section 5AAA. Waconia is the two seed in a very difficult section 6AAA and they play Minneapolis Washburn in the first round of playoffs starting Wednesday.