A season filled with a program-high in wins, another Metro West Conference championship and an impressive 22-game win streak for Chaska came to a close March 10.
After one of the coldest shooting performances from the Hawks in recent years, Chaska’s dominant season came to a crushing end on their home court as the Hawks fell 60-42 to Eden Prairie in the section 2AAAA championship game.
Following the loss, head coach Tara Seifert said it was a game Chaska would like to have back given the offensive performance. It was the fewest points this season for Chaska, a team that averaged 71.5 points-per-game coming into the game. The Hawks’ lowest point total previously was 53 in a win over Shakopee Dec. 2. The last time the Hawks scored less than 50 points was last season’s section semifinal 59-48 loss to Shakopee.
“Unfortunately tonight was just one of those nights where the shots didn’t fall. [Eden Prairie] was the more physical team,” Seifert said.
The last time Chaska played Eden Prairie was over Dec. 29 in a winter vacation tournament at Park Center. The Hawks had battled back from a deficit early in the first half in that matchup and won the free throw battle to beat the Eagles 72-63.
Since the two teams met back in December, both have been on different courses to the section championship. It was the third win for Chaska to start its 22-game win streak, while it was Eden Prairie’s first of six losses on the season to a Class 4A ranked opponent.
This meeting, however, was different in that the Hawks could not overcome a five-point deficit at halftime and struggled offensively from the jump. Chaska led 12-9 with about 10 minutes to play in the first half after a three-point basket from senior Ashley Schuelke, but the Hawks then struggled to score only six points the rest of the first half.
Coming out of halftime, senior Kennedy Sanders pushed the ball up the court and was fouled on a made shot. Shortly after, sophomore Alexis Schaefer made it a 25-22 game on a transition pass from Schuelke to bring some life into the offense.
Despite these two momentum plays, the Hawks could not weather the storm that was to come from the Eagles. Eden Prairie went on a 6-2 run, putting Chaska in a 12-point hole the team could not overcome.
“There were seven possessions there [in the first half] where we didn’t score, and I thought we didn’t rebound back from that in the second half,” Seifert said. “We just couldn’t get a flow offensively and typically we’re a team that you see that and we hit shots, and so it was just unfortunate. Give [Eden Prairie] credit, they played a great game.”
The physicality showed on both sides throughout the game. Seifert said it was something they coached the players through rather than complain about how the game was called.
“It was a physical game, [the referees] weren’t always making calls, not that I would rip on referees, but it was a physical game,” Seifert said. “We talked about how you got to play through it, be aggressive, get the loose balls, run your plays and hit shots in the second half.”
In the recent battle of the birds in the postseason, the Hawks have not been able to beat the Eagles. The last time the two teams met in the section 2AAAA tournament was in 2019-20 when Eden Prairie knocked off the Hawks 70-56 March 6 in the section championship.
The section title game was the first for Chaska since the Hawks won the state tournament in 2020-21. With the Hawks hoping for a chance to play in the state tournament, Seifert said it hit the entire team hard.
Chaska had one of the toughest roads to get to the Class 4A state tournament. As the No. 1 team in the state The Hawks played two ranked opponents in the section 2AAAA tournament, while the only other tournament to have three ranked teams was section 4AAAA with East Ridge, Stillwater and White Bear Lake.
With the loss, Chaska’s season comes to an end at 27-2, its two losses coming to top five ranked opponents. The Hawks graduate a group of seven seniors from its roster. Seifert got emotional talking about the players on the roster.
“They’ve helped put our team back on the map. I think they’ve made Chaska a recognized team in the state, 27 wins is the most we’ve had in a season, so they’ve just been a part of setting a lot of records and motivating a lot of the younger kids,” Seifert said.
Southwest Christian and Holy Family also competed in section championship games March 10. The Stars fell 48-40 to Lake Crystal-Welcome Memorial in the section 2AA championship at Minnesota State University, Mankato, while the Fire lost 89-35 to Providence Academy in the section 5AA championship at Augsburg University.