Panthers are state champs 2 years running

Published 4:27 pm Saturday, March 22, 2014

NRHEG's girls' basketball team celebrates after winning the Class AA state final Saturday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. NRHEG defeated Kenyon Wanamingo 71-61. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

NRHEG’s girls’ basketball team celebrates after winning the Class AA state final Saturday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. NRHEG defeated Kenyon Wanamingo 71-61. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — The NRHEG girls’ basketball team is the back-to-back state champion of Class AA.

The Panthers took down Kenyon-Wanamingo 71-61 Saturday at Williams Arena to claim the title.

“Going back and doing it two years in a row — it’s a dream,” said NRHEG senior point guard Carlie Wagner. “I feel like I’m not even here right now. It’s mind-boggling to me.”

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Four seniors are on the Panthers’ roster: Carlie, Jade Schultz, Hannah Lundberg and Paige Overgaard. Three of the four girls played in the championship game last year, but Jade watched the game from the bench after she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee against Minneapolis Washburn in the state semifinals.

This year, Jade fought through swelling in her knee to score seven points and grab six rebounds.

“You experience a whole different thing out there,” Jade said. “It just feels like the best thing that ever happened right now.”

The Panthers were the clear favorite headed into the game with a 30-0 record. However, NRHEG head coach John Schultz said that’s not the only reason the community came together in droves to support the Panthers throughout the season.

“The fans love ’em because they’re such great kids,” he said. “They’re straight A students. They do their homework. They do their chores. They do everything the way it’s supposed to be done.”

NRHEG entered the title game on a 60-game winning streak, which included a 67-60 regular-season home win against Kenyon-Wanamingo, which was the Knights’ only loss of the season. It was also the only game of the season NRHEG didn’t win by double digits.

Kenyon Wanamingo came into the game with a 31-1 record, having built a 22-game winning streak after its loss at NRHEG. In the last 60 games, the Knights won 50.

The Panthers had the edge in many statistical categories. NRHEG averaged more than 20 points per game more than the Kenyon-Wanamingo in the postseason and more than 14 points during the regular season.

“There was so much pressure for these kids to repeat,” said NRHEG head coach John Schultz. “These kids learned to tune everything out and go one game at a time. I’m proud of their reaction to the pressure.”

Amidst the excitement of winning the title, tears were shed because the season ended.

“You don’t know if you should be happy or sad because we’re happy we won state, but we’re sad because we don’t ever get to play with each other again,” Jade said. “It’s all so special, and then my dad is the coach — and that’s just something on top of it all.”

Coach Schultz said it was the first time he saw his daughter cry.

“She’s tougher than nails,” he said. “She’s got ice in her veins, and it’s good to see that it meant that much to her.”

Kenyon-Wanamingo began the game with a 7-5 lead on a 3-pointer by Meg Clark. However, with 3-pointers from each of the Wagner sisters — Carlie, Maddie and Marnie — NRHEG went on a 14-3 run to take a 19-10 lead.

With 5:59 left in the first half, Carlie gave NRHEG its first double-digit lead of the game with a free throw, 23-13. Carlie capped another run with a 3-pointer that extended the Panthers lead to 18 points. The lead fluctuated from 14 to 18 points in the next 3:36, and at halftime, NRHEG led 37-19.

The Panthers were on pace to hit their postseason scoring average, and Kenyon-Wanamingo wasn’t even close to keeping its average for points allowed. Through the first six games of the postseason, the Knights gave up an average of 38 points per game.

In the second half, NRHEG’s lead was pushed to 24 points on Carlie’s sixth 3-pointer of the game.

“Her ability to score from anywhere anyway is the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen,” said coach Schultz. “We don’t have much movement to our offense. She creates everything. She’s shooting or dishing.”

However, Kenyon-Wanamingo responded with a 10-0 run in 3:02 to make its deficit manageable. Jade fouled out with 2:29 left, and NRHEG tried to slow down the game by taking its time on offense. It didn’t work, and the Knights cut their deficit to single digits with two minutes left.

“Part of that was my fault for even mentioning to stall,” coach Schultz said. “Those kids can’t stall. If they see an open hoop, that instinct takes over, and they’re gone.”

Kenyon-Wanamingo cut its deficit to seven points with 1:04 left, but NRHEG pushed it back to 10 points before the final buzzer sounded.

Carlie led all scorers with 36 points. Maddie was one point short of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. Lundberg chipped in with nine rebounds and four points and Overgaard had eight points and six rebounds.

In addition to being Jade’s father, coach Schultz has been teaching this year’s squad for longer than most high school coaches.

“I’ve had them since third grade in elementary basketball,” he said. “They have grown to be so responsible, good under pressure and accepting of their roles.”


NRHEG records set at 2013-14 state tournament

• Carlie Wagner’s 36 points gave her 130 for the tournament, which broke her record of 129 in 2013.

• Carlie Wagner’s 371 points scored in games at the state tournament is a new state record. The old record was 329 by Janet Karvonen in 1980.

• Carlie Wagner scored 53 points in the state quarterfinals, which broke her record of 50 in 2013.

•NRHEG set the record for most points in a game at the state tournament with 100 in the quarterfinals against Pequot Lakes. The old record was 88 by Eden Valley Watkins against Cass Lake in 1984.

• NRHEG and Pequot Lakes set the record for most combined points in a game with 168. The old record was 157 when Monticello played Fergus Falls in 2013.


Box score

NRHEG 71, Kenyon-Wanamingo 61

NRHEG 37 34 — 71
KW 19 42 — 61

NRHEG (31-0)
Wagner, Carlie 11-32 8-14 36; Wagner, Maddie 3-7 1-4 9; Overgaard, Paige 3-7 2-4 8; Wagner, Marnie 3-3 0-1 7; Schultz, Jade 2-9 2-2 7; Lundberg, Hannah 0-0 4-6 4; Stork, Anna 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-59 17-31 71.

Quam, Megan 5-9 12-13 22; Sviggum, Siri 3-17 4-5 11; Clark, Audra 4-12 2-6 10; Flom, Brittney 3-6 0-0 8; Clark, Meg 2-5 3-5 8; Ashland, Emily 1-2 0-0 2; Bleess, Savannah 0-1 0-0 0; Quam, Mara 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 18-55 21-29 61.

3-point goals — NRHEG 10-27 (Wagner, Carlie 6-14; Wagner, Maddie
2-5; Wagner, Marnie 1-1; Schultz, Jade 1-7), Kenyon-Wanamingo 4-27 (Flom,
Brittney 2-3; Sviggum, Siri 1-11; Clark, Meg 1-4; Bleess, Savannah 0-1;
Quam, Mara 0-2; Clark, Audra 0-6).
Fouled out — NRHEG-Schultz, Jade; Wagner, Marnie, Kenyon-Wanamingo-Quam, Megan; Quam, Mara.
Rebounds — NRHEG 45 (Wagner, Maddie 10), Kenyon-Wanamingo 42
(Clark, Audra 11).
Assists — NRHEG 8 (Wagner, Carlie 6), Kenyon-Wanamingo 9 (Clark, Audra 6).
Total fouls — NRHEG 24,
Kenyon-Wanamingo 25.
Technical fouls — NRHEG-None, Kenyon-Wanamingo-None.

Carlie Wagner sets the 3-game tournament record for most points with 130.
She set the previous record last year with 129 points.
She finished her career with 371 points in state tournament play, also a record.