Long before the girls basketball team from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted won the Class 2A Section 5 championship, and long before they reached the state semifinals this week, important decisions had to be made by some of the players.
They revolved around basketball, yes. As in, “Do we want to commit to playing at state … even if we don’t get there, or is a school trip to Europe more important.”
That was the quandary some of the Lakers faced. Long ago, a National Honor Society trip to Europe was planned over spring break, which is next week. About 20 students flew to Amsterdam on Thursday, including several girls basketball players. Four other players, all starters, stayed behind to play at state.
Mikayla Kittock, Abby Wenniger and Kassandra Scherping went on the trip, and all three got to play in the Lakers’ quarterfinal victory over Minnehaha Academy on Wednesday. Abby Miller, the Lakers’ scoring leader this season, is president of the school’s NHS chapter. She and starting teammates Mackenzie Uter, Marissa Reed and Gabby Gruenhagen (pictured) are all missing the European trip.
Gruenhagen said she was unaware of a possible conflict until she was at a graduation party last year. “I was talking to our boys head basketball coach (Chad Gagnon). He said, ‘You better check up on that trip, because I think it’s the same weekend as the state tournament.’ ”
Gabby cancelled her travel reservation in December. “That way I could get all my money back, and I was pretty confident our team could get here,” she said.
Had the girls state tournament not traded dates with the boys tourney this year and been held last week, there would have been no conflict. But …
“We kind of had a pretty strong inkling probably from the Christmas break on (about the possible conflict),” said coach Jason Kuehn. “I asked the girls to let me know when they made a final decision.”
Reed cancelled a month ago. She said she looked into flying to Europe and joining the group after the tournament, “but that was a bigger mess than just cancelling.”
The players have already communicated with their teammates and friends who are in Europe. The travelers were planning to watch Friday night’s game between the Lakers and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva online.
Meanwhile, the players who stayed are happy they did.
Playing at state is “Awesome, like a dream come true,” Miller said. “It’s definitely life-changing and something you’ll never forget.”
The Lakers lost to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 87-58 Friday and will meet Esko in Saturday’s third-place game at Concordia University in St. Paul.
JANET KARVONEN AND CARLIE WAGNER IN THE RECORD BOOK
New York Mills legend Janet Karvonen set one of the longest-standing records in state tournament history, scoring a total of 329 points in four tourneys from 1977 through 1980. That record stood for all these years until Carlie Wagner of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva broke it on Friday.
Karvonen’s yearly totals were 59 points in the 1977 tournament, 76 in 1978, 98 in 1979 and 96 in 1980. New York Mills won state titles in 1977, 1978 and 1979.
Wagner, a senior who has signed with the University of Minnesota, scored 112 points in the 2012 tournament, 129 last year and had 41 in Friday’s game against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, for a total of 335. She scored a tourney-record 53 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Pequot Lakes (in this photo, she is awarded the game ball by tournament director Lisa Lissimore).
Wagner will have a chance to add to her total in Saturday’s championship game vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo at Williams Arena.
Wagner also broke another state record Friday, becoming the leading scorer in girls basketball history. She has a total of 3,921, breaking the mark of 3,888 set by Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South in 2009.
--One more record was tied in the NRHEG-Howard Lake game. Howard Lake’s Abby Miller, who made six three-point shots in the quarterfinals, made seven more Friday, giving her 13 for the tournament. That ties the tournament record set by Sara Schoenrock of Christ’s Household of Faith in 1997. Miller will have a chance to break the record Saturday.
--Kenyon-Wanamingo 60, Esko 36: Siri Sviggum led K-W with 18 points and Judy Wagemaker had 15 for the Eskomos.
CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
--Minneota 45, Goodhue 43: In a game that included six lead changes and five ties, the defending state champs from Minneota came out on top. With the score tied 41-41 and 12 seconds to play, Minneota’s Taylor Reiss stole the ball, made a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw but teammate Megan Larson put in the rebound to make it 45-41. Meredith Watson scored for Goodhue as the game ended.
Reiss, who scored 40 points in the quarterfinals against Browerville, was held to 16 by Goodhue’s stout defense. Emily Steinessen also scored 16 for Minneota. Goodhue was led by Mikayla Miller with 25 points.
--Win-E-Mac 62, Mankato Loyola 61: Win-E-Mac sophomore Madison McKeever (pictured) led the Patriots with 32 points, broke one state tournament record and tied another. She broke the single-game record for free throw attemps with 25 and tied the record for made free throws with 20. Tayler Hill of Minneapolis set both marks in 2009. Megan Schroeder led Loyola with 21 points.
Win-E-Mac and Minneota will meet in the title game at noon Saturday at Williams Arena. Last year at state, Win-E-Mac beat Mankato Loyola in the quarterfinals, lost to Ada-Borup in the semifinals and lost to Bethlehem Academy in the third-place game. Saturday’s game will be their first appearance in a state championship game.
SATURDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
At Williams Arena
Noon, Class 1A/ Minneota vs. Win-E-Mac
2 p.m., Class 2A/ NRHEG vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo
6 p.m., Class 3A/ Park Center vs. Marshall
8 p.m., Class 4A/ Eastview vs. Bloomington Kennedy
BY THE NUMBERS
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