Strength vs length. That was the premise for Thursday afternoon's encounter at the Hill-Murray holiday tournament as the Wayzata Trojans – ranked #2 in the state in 4A – faced the Stars of Holy Angels, ranked #2 in 3A. At 6'2″ with a wingspan that is even greater, Kallie Theisen of Wayzata is oh-so-long, a natural attribute from which she has developed an impressive skillset and earned the #1 ranking in the Class of 2019. Destinee Oberg of Holy Angels is oh-so-big, possessing more size and strength than anyone else around, a God-given set of assets she has utilized to become the #2 player in the Class. The Theisen vs Oberg battle did not disappoint, but there was much more to it than that as Wayzata scored a convincing 62-52 victory.
Oberg came out swinging, scoring on an early and-one and establishing her physical presence against Theisen down low. Theisen, meanwhile, missed her first three shots of the game (never a good omen), and didn't score a basket until the 12-minute mark, by which time the Trojans were up 25-14 anyway. Her primary focus was on guarding Oberg, something most teams struggle with. “We just worked on fronting her for everything,” Theisen said. “And we tried to make sure we had the weak side help there, too.”
Wayzata played a solid half and built a 13-point lead. In the second period, the margin stretched to as much as 16. The Trojans' success came in spite of significant foul trouble for Theisen. She collected her fourth infraction with more than 10 minutes remaining, and spent considerable time planted on the bench. “It is pretty frustrating in that situation, but being a leader I still have to be vocal and lead from the sideline and not really let it get to me,” she said. “When I get in the game I just have to try and make a difference.”
In her absence, it was up to 6'2″ sophomore Annika Stewart to assume the primary defender role on Oberg for the first time, and there's not much that can prepare you for such an occasion. The North Dakota transfer employed a rather conservative, arms-up, hold-your-ground approach that was largely effective. She did not do any ill-advised swatting or reaching, an approach that has foiled more than one Holy Angels opponent. “Annika did a great job. She really took over,” Theisen said. “She was able to get in front and stay strong.” Between the two of them, Theisen and Stewart held Destinee to 17 points.
Johnson and Schrader made their presence felt
Holy Angels had a couple of nice spurts in the second half, closing the gap to as little as 6, but by the time Theissen came back into the game with just over 6 minutes remaining Wayzata's lead was back to 11. She managed to avoid the dreaded 5th foul until there were just 12 seconds left in the game, and by then it was all over but the shaking of hands. Playing with four fouls requires a little different approach to the game, especially for a player like Theisen who defends aggressively and sometimes pays the price for it. “I just tried not to put myself in any situation that could be questionable,” Theisen said.
One player whose performance cannot be questioned is 6'1″ freshman Jenna Johnson of Wayzata, a talented young power forward whose high school career could not have gone any better than it has so far. The long, athletic big impressed us all summer against the best players in her age group. She has been even better against the best competition in high school. The #6 player in the Class of 2021 just makes everything look so easy, playing with a kind of grace and smoothness that you rarely see in a 9th grader. She handled the ball at key moments down the stretch, scoring a couple of big baskets along the way, and making 8 of 9 free throws for a 14-point game. Theisen had 13 while Stewart added 9. Although this was a game of bigs, the reality is that Wayzata point guard Mimi Schrader had as much impact on the outcome as anyone. Schrader, the 7th-ranked player in the class of 2019, is a rock out there. Time after time she was able to break the Stars' press and put the ball in the right place. Mimi also put the ball in the hole, leading all scorers with 19.
So Wayzata remains perfect at 10-0 while Holy Angels (8-2) suffers just its second defeat, its first against a Minnesota opponent. “We knew it was going to be a hard game,” Theisen said, “but on the whole I think we did the things that we wanted to do.”