Milestone win for Panthers will mean trip to state

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Column: Behind the Mic

As I traveled back from Mankato on Monday night, following New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s girls’ basketball team’s win in the subsection final, all I could see was taillights as I traveled on Highway 83.

Aaron Worm

Panthers fans were lined up one after another traveling back to the area. Dave Gilbertson, who did the broadcast with me, made the reference to “Field of Dreams” upon seeing all the tail lights. The first movie that popped into my head was “Hoosiers,” where the fans of Hickory traveled in droves to see their team.

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I talked to sophomore Carlie Wagner after Friday’s win against Hayfield in the subsection semifinals, and she mentioned how the fans meant the world to them and that they would travel a 100 miles to see them play. If the Panthers win on Friday it won’t quite be 100 miles but around 91 miles to see their team play in the state tournament at the Target Center.

Now I have only seen two games played this year by NRHEG (their last two), but I already get a feel on the excitement this team has brought to the high school and also to the four towns that make up the school district. On Friday, the final home game for the Panthers, the gym in New Richland was packed, with people hanging in the doorway to watch the game. Activities Director Dan Stork told me that the girls have played in front of a packed gym all season long in New Richland. The team has a lot of talent and sits at 29-0 on the season, but obviously the support of the “sixth man” has made this team even more intimidating.

Now going back to the “Hoosiers” reference. The school district isn’t as tiny as the one portrayed in the movie. According to the Minnesota State High School League website, the enrollment of NRHEG High School is 264, but their route to state has matched them up against larger schools (Blue Earth’s enrollment is 322 and St. Peter’s is 492.)

The team has caught the attention of not just the school district, but basketball fans throughout southern Minnesota. The team has only three seniors, including Anna Schlaak, a hard-hitting outside hitter on the volleyball court headed to Concordia University in St. Paul to play volleyball in the fall. Schlaak’s 21 points in the subsection semifinals helped the team get by a pesky Hayfield team.

Jade Schultz, only a sophomore, seems to like the corners when lining up for a 3-point shot, and hit three from beyond the arc and scored 17 in the win against Blue Earth.

And of course there’s sophomore Carlie Wagner, who looks like Division I basketball will be in her future. Wagner averages more than 28 points a game, and even with Blue Earth trying to deny her the ball with double teams, she was still able to score 35 in Monday’s victory.

The fans in the red and black will head to Gustavus Adolphus College on Friday hoping to see their Panthers pick up their 30th win of the season when they face St. Peter. The No. 30 usually indicates a milestone birthday. In NRHEG’s case, No. 30 equals a trip to the Target Center.


KATE Sports Director Aaron Worm’s column usually appears each Monday in the Tribune. He can be heard from 6 to 11 a.m. weekdays on The Breeze.