WASECA, Minn. (KEYC) — Four years ago, the Waseca Bluejays won one of the best high school boys’ basketball games ever to go to state. This is what the Bluejays mindset was heading into that game.
“We wanted to believe that we had a chance to win, that’s why you play the game. We also knew that the cards were stacked against us and that would be a difficult game for us,” said Todd Dufault, Waseca’s head coach during the 2015-16 season.
Going back to the 2015-16 boys’ basketball season, Waseca stumbled toward the end of the regular season with two losses heading into the section tournament.
The Bluejays turned it around quickly with a dominant win over Hutchinson, before taking down a tough Mankato East squad 74-49 in the semifinals.
“I remember going into that game thinking this might be my last game ever, and we won by 25. We put together a great game plan against a good Mankato East team, and we thought we have the chance of a lifetime here in the section championship,” said Nick Dufault, a senior on Waseca’s 2015-16 team.
That win meant next up was a rematch of the Big South title game against Marshall with a ticket to state on the line.
In the conference championship game, the Tigers had no problem in topping the Bluejays.
“We played pretty well in the Big South Championship game, and I think we got beat by 17,” said Todd Dufault.
Marshall only lost three games in the regular season and created a number of different mismatches on the floor with its size to go along with a deep bench.
“Our guys knew that we had to have a really good game and a defensive plan that hopefully would slow them down and force them to take tough shots. They’re too good if you think you’re going to outscore them and allow them to do what they want, it’s going to be a long night for you,” said Todd Dufault.
“I think the first game helped us a lot. They blew us out at our home place, we wanted revenge for that. Next time we saw them in the section championship, we had a gameplan for them, going under screens, let them shoot, we followed the gameplan and let them do their thing. Defense was the number one thing for us, stay in front of your guy, grab rebounds, run, if the shot is there, take it. We needed to do everything we could to beat a tough team. I’ve never seen a team like that before as a freshman, they have a lot of big guys, I’m learning, but it’s the section championship, we had to perform in front of our crowd,” said Malik Willingham, a freshman on Waseca’s 2015-16 team.
“Just knowing their personnel, in general, is something we stressed going into that game, so I think that hey no pressure. We’re expected to lose no matter what, but we went out there and played as a team,” said Nick Dufault.
The section championship game between Marshall and Waseca ended up going back and forth in a thriller that included three buzzer-beaters and four overtime periods.