Wingers earn another trip to state girls basketball tournament
The Red Wing girls defeated Kasson-Mantorville twice last season and three times this year.
Oh, and the Wingers also won an AAU game between the teams this summer.
So is there any doubt?
"They're just the better team,'' said K-M coach Ryan Haraldson.
And especially so in crunch time; two of the Red Wing wins came in the Section One, Class AAA girls basketball championship, like on Friday night at Mayo Civic Auditorium. The Wingers advanced to the state tournament for the third consecutive year, pulling out a 61-52 win.
"This is what you play for,'' said second-year Red Wing coach Dave Muelken, who is 2-for-2 in section championship games. "That's a good team we beat. We knew it wasn't going to be easy and it wasn't.''
The Wingers will play in the state tournament against an opponent to be determined on Sunday after the teams are seeded. The game will be played Wednesday at Williams Arena with a start time of either 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 4 p.m.
Teams already in the field are New Prague (Section 2), Hill-Murray (4), Richfield (6) and Chisago Lakes (7).
Red Wing advanced despite shooting 35 percent (24 of 66) from the field.
"We were horrible,'' said Muelken, "but we did make some big shots down the stretch when we needed them.''
It was the first game the Wingers have ever played in the Mayo Civic Auditorium. Usually, their section games are played in the Arena, which is in use this weekend for the NSIC men's and women's tournaments.
"A rim is a rim, it doesn't matter,'' said Red Wing senior Tesha Buck, who was 9 of 31 shooting but ended up with a game-high 28 points. She also collected 11 rebounds with 5 steals. "I was off tonight, yes, but was still able to get some passes to my teammates and get them involved.''
Buck has scored more than 2,000 points in her career and teammate Macy Kelly went over 1,000 points earlier this year. Buck averages 24 and Kelly 15.
And like all good scorers, they scored when it counted, combining for the final 14 points. They never let the KoMets mount a charge.
"That's what senior leaders do,'' said Muelken. "We wanted to get the ball in their hands.''
Kelly was off on her game, up until the finish. She scored only two points in the first half and missed her first four shots after intermission. But in the final six minutes, she netted seven.
"Big, big shots,'' said Muelken.
The game turned at the start of the second half.
Kara Norvet scored on a 10-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Wingers a 34-31 lead at half.
Taylor Miller cut the lead to one at 34-33 for K-M but then the Wingers went on a 13-2 run to effectively put the game away.
"Their role players stepped it up in the second half,'' said Haraldson. "We felt our big two scorers (Abby Manitz and Erin Schlotthauer) could effectively cross out their big two and that more or less played out. But their role players stepped up and that made the difference.''
K-M cut it to eight, at 51-43, but that was as close as it got.
"Being up by eight or 10 points forced them to stay in a man-to-man,'' said Muelken, "and with Tesha on the outside, that's what we want.''
Cori Kennedy finished with 16 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead the KoMets. Schlotthauer had 14 and Manitz 12.
K-M loses four seniors — Schlotthauer, Manitz, Bre Barrett and Marissa Rahlf. The KoMets, the No. 3 seed in the section, finish at 19-10.
"We're happy to be here, it means we're one of the top 16 teams in the state,'' said Haraldson. "It also means we have some unfinished business for next year.''
For Buck, this will be her third straight trip to state.
"It crossed my mind that this might have been my last high school game,'' she said, "but that just motivated me more. I definitely didn't want my last game to be here.
"Getting to the state again feels good but that's not our only goal. Our goal is to win it.''
Red Wing will take a 21-8 record to state. The Wingers were matched against the No. 1 seed the past two years at state, and even led Richfield at the half a year ago. This will be their fifth state appearance. They also advanced in 1978, 2005, 2011 and 2012.
Red Wing 62, Kasson-Mantorville 51
NO. 3 K-M (51)
Taylor Wiebke 4, Abby Manitz 12, Cori Kennedy 16, Taylor Miller 2, Erin Schlotthauer 14, Delaney Bartel 3, Marissa rahlf.
NO. 1 RED WING (62)
Kara Norvet 7, Tesha Buck 28, McKenzie Muelken 13, McKenna Schaffer 5, Macy Kelly 9, McKenzie Cota, McKayla Muelken.
Halftime: RW 34, K-M 31.
Free throws: RW 8-12, K-M 5-6.
Three-point goals: RW 6 (Buck 4, Norvet 1, Schaffer 1), K-M 6 (Kennedy 5, Bartel 1).