by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Carlie Wagner showed why she is one of the top players of the state in leading New Richland to a victory over Central in the girls basketball Section 2A final at the Taylor Center in Mankato, 70-36.
Wagner, who finished with 31 points, scored the first nine points of the game as reigning 2A title winner New Richland (28-0) built their advantage.
With the Raiders defense keying in on Wagner, Jade Schultz hit a 3-pointer for a 12-0 lead. Sami Jo Brinkmann got the first bucket for Central about 4 minutes in, but the Panthers responded with a 13-0 run.
Wagner was up to 15 points by the end of the string as New Richland led 25-2 with about 11 minutes left.
Head coach Gary Lembcke said New Richland showed why they had won 57 straight entering the game.
“They kind of blew us out that first half and really got it going,” said Lembcke. “We just didn’t seem to stop them… We saw what it takes to be state champion and they’re tough.”
Lembcke added his team struggled offensively.
“We just had a tough time scoring and I think we rushed our shots, trying to get something going,” he said. “It just was tough.”
The Raiders got their offense going a bit as Kaylie Brazil had six points in the first half, but the Raiders trailed 39-13 at halftime as Wagner had 20.
The Panthers would maintain that advantage despite Brazil’s 15 second-half points as she finished with 21.
“I thought we came out very competitive in the second half, which I’m very pleased with,” said Lembcke, adding they adjusted to the defensive energy by Wagner and others. “She keeps putting tremendous pressure and I think it took a while for Brazil to get going. Once she got it going that helped us out the second half.”
Wagner, who has committed to play for Minnesota, had 11 points in the second-half though it was Schultz, her future Gopher teammate, who poured in the points by hitting three 3-pointers.
While Brinkmann and the other Raiders worked hard on the boards, New Richland got numerous second-chance opportunities throughout the game.
“They were really crashing and we had a tough time keeping them off the boards,” said Lembcke. “They get a run and start hitting those 3s, there’s a reason they’re undefeated for that many games.”
Schultz’ first 3-pointer of the second half put New Richland ahead 50-19 with about 12 minutes left, leading to reserves coming in for both teams. Schultz, who finished with 20 points, later hit two treys to make it 58-23 for New Richland’s largest lead of the game.
While the contest was decided early, Lembcke credited his team for the way they kept fighting.
“We don’t give up and that’s a tribute to the players we have,” said Lembcke. “We don’t want to start out like that obviously, but they kept working hard and that’s all you can ask.”
In addition to Brazil’s team-high 21, the Raiders’ three seniors all scored. Brinkmann finished with seven, Natalie Stockman had six and Sara Marschall had two.
“They’re great leaders,” Lembcke said of the senior trio. “We’ve had a blend of young players and older players this year and all three of them have done a great job. They watch out for the younger kids, making them feel important on the team and you can’t beat that. We’re going to miss them, not only for their basketball skills but just for their leadership and the way they treat people. All three are great kids.”
The Raiders (20-6) return three starters next year including juniors Brazil and Megan Geis and eighth-grader Kali Grimm, who didn’t score for the first time all season.
“Hopefully this one makes us hungry for next year and we see what we got to improve on and get quicker in the game,” said Lembcke.
New Richland, which received the top seed in the 2A state tournament opened up against Pequot Lakes on Wednesday, March 19. The 2A final is scheduled for Saturday.
Central 13 23 36
New Richland 39 31 70
New Richland – Carlie Wagner 13 4-6 31, Jade Schultz 8 0-0 20, Maddie Wagner 3 0-0 6, Paige Overgaard 2 0-0 4, Kayley Camerer 1 0-0 3, Kelli Harrington 0 2-2 2, Anna Stork 1 0-0 2, Hannah Lundberg 0 2-2 2, Marnie Wagner 0 0-0 0, Ryann Hagen 0 0-0 0, Gretchen Ranamaker 0 0-1 0, Jade Peterson 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 28 8-11 70
Central – Kaylie Brazil 6 8-10 21, Natalie Stockman 1 4-5 6, Kali Grimm 0 0-0 0, Megan Geis 0 0-0 0, Sami Jo Brinkmann 1 4-5 6, Alli Curson 0 0-0 0, Madison Schlueter 0 0-0 0, Bren Fox 0 0-0 0, Megan Miller 0 0-0 0, Grace Wickenhauser 0 0-0 0, Sara Marschall 1 0-0 2, Kassidi Wickenhauser 0 0-0 0, Clare Stuewe 0 0-0 0, Paige Schneider 0 0-0 0, Mary Wenisch 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 9 16-20 36
Three Pointers – Central 1 (Brazil), New Richland 6 (Schultz 4, C Wagner, Camerer)
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.