Late Saturday afternoon, this message was sent to me via Twitter: “Being the wordsmith you are, give me THE one word to describe the NRHEG-Braham title game.”
The answer, for me, was easy. Epic. The Class 2A girls basketball state championship game was epic. Absolutely epic. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe a high school sporting event, but it is an unquestionably perfect fit for what we witnessed at Target Center.
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva defeated Braham 60-59 to win its first state title in a game that had as many swings as a spy novel. NRHEG jumped out to an early lead, Braham star Rebekah Dahlman was in first-half foul trouble, Braham rallied in the second half and the darn thing went down to the wire.
The hero for NRHEG was, of course, Carlie Wagner. The junior scoring machine set all manner of state tournament records (we’ll get to that in a second), but her biggest play was a steal as the final seconds ticked away. Wagner had made one free throw to make it 60-59 with six seconds left, but the Bombers had a chance … until Wagner stole the ball and sealed it.
Now, about those tournament records. Last year, when NRHEG placed third at state, Wagner set tournament records with 48 points in one game and 112 in the tournament. She topped both of those marks Saturday and also bettered or matched records set by some of the game’s pioneers.
Wagner now holds six tournament records: Most field goal attempts in a game (43), most field goals made in a game (21, matching the 21 by Albany’s Kelly Skalicky in 1981), most points in a game (50), most field goal attempts in a tournament (110), most field goals made in a tournament (48) and most points in a tournament (129).
Skalicky had also held the record for field goals made in a tournament, Kay Konerza of Lester Prairie (1982) had held the record for field goal attempts in a game, and the mark for most field goal attempts in a tournament had belonged to New York Mills legend Janet Karvonen (1980).
“This is crazy, it hasn’t sunk in that we just won,” Wagner said before the Panthers cut down the nets. “I just can’t think right now.”
Wagner has made a verbal commitment to play basketball at the University of Minnesota in a couple of years, and Gophers coach Pam Borton watched from the court level Saturday. Dahlman, the all-time career scoring leader in Minnesota, had two points and three fouls at halftime but was spectacular after that, scoring 30 points in the second half before fouling out with 37 seconds to play. Dahlman will continue her basketball career at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
“She’s incredible,” Wagner said of Dahlman. “She does things I’ve never seen before.”
My favorite moment Saturday came as the 2A all-tournament team was announced. Wagner (and her eighth-grade sister Maddie) were recognized, as was Dahlman. Carlie and Rebekah embraced and they both smiled as they congratulated each other.
We’ll see more from the Wagners (Carlie, Maddie and Maddie’s twin, Marnie) next winter. But before that, Carlie will turn her attention to the track season, where she is the defending Class 1A state champion in the high jump.
MINNEOTA CAPTURES FIRST TITLE
Both coaches knew what would be a major factor in deciding whether Minneota or Ada-Borup would be the Class 1A state champion: Minneota’s Taylor Reiss. The 5-foot-10 sophomore is the linchpin of the Vikings’ inside game.
Ada-Borup led by two points at halftime. That’s when Minneota coach Chad Johnston had a simple message for his players. He said, “If we want to win, we have to make sure the ball goes into Taylor Reiss.”
That indeed happened as Reiss finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs.
“She really was the difference today,” said Ada-Borup coach Dave Smart. “We couldn’t keep her off the offensive glass and that’s the price we paid.”
DELASALLE, HOPKINS THREE-PEAT
DeLaSalle won the 3A title for the third year in a row, defeating Red Wing 65-60. The game was close into the second half -- the Islanders led by two at halftime – but Red Wing was held to 22 points in the final 18 minutes.
Tyseanna Johnson scored 25 points and Allina Starr had 20 for the Islanders, and Macy Kelly led the Wingers with 17.
In the 4A game, Hopkins also notched its third title in as many years with a 68-45 victory over Bloomington Kennedy. The Royals led by two at halftime but outscored the Eagles 40-19 in the second half.
Nia Coffey led Hopkins with 25 points and 16 rebounds. Jade Martin scored 19 points for Kennedy.
----Minneota’s Johnston also coached the Vikings football team to the Class 1A state title in 2009, begging the question: How many coaches have won state championships with both boys and girls teams in two different sports? Apple Valley’s Chuck Scanlon did so with girls hockey and boys soccer. If you know of any others, send me an email (or a Tweet).
--An interesting sight in the Target Center corridor where locker rooms are located, including the Timberwolves’ locker room: NBA players, walking to their practice court in the Target Center health club, ducking in order to stay out of the way of high school girls basketball players as they were being interviewed.
1A/ Kaelin Smieja, Upsala; Jessie Mathews, Bethlehem Academy; Shelby Kaster, Madison McKeever, Win-E-Mac; Monica Vega, Megan Kolness, Shaina Stevenson, Ada-Borup; Taylor Reiss, Emily Stienessen, Molly Hennen, Minneota.
2A/ Chase Coley, Natalie Holdahl, Minneapolis Washburn; Taylor Finley, Leah Szabla, Nathalie Ratcliff, Providence Academy; Maddie Wagner, Carlie Wagner, NRHEG; Jaclyn Hollenkamp, Dani Braund, Rebekah Dahlman, Braham.
3A/Grace Sawatzke, Alyssa Lentner, Monticello; Jessica January, Kyla Adams, Richfield; Tesha Buck, Macy Kelly, McKenna Schaffer, Red Wing; Allina Starr, Tyseanna Johnson, Patiance Griffin, DeLaSalle.
4A/ Phillis Webb, Janay Morton, Osseo; Madison Guebert, Tyra Johnson, Eastview; Jade Martin, Jasmyn Martin, Kenisha Bell, Bloomington Kennedy; Taylor Anderson, Erin O’Toole, Nia Coffey, Hopkins.
ADAPTED FLOOR HOCKEY STATE TOURNAMENT
--North Suburban won its first adapted floor hockey CI championship with a 7-6 victory over Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville. The game was a nail-biter from start to finish and it was the Cougars who scored a whopping five times in the final period to take the title. Junior center and All-Tournament Team member Tyler Engel scored three times for the Cougars. Eighth-grader Anthony Bengston had 2 goals and 2 assists, while Cody Jacobsen had a goal and three assists in the game. Brenden Wamhoff also scored a goal for North Suburban. The winning goalie for the Cougars was All-Tourney Teamer Kody Blatt, who had 26 saves.
-- The Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka Robbins completed a PI three-peat with a 5-0 shutout over a very tough Dakota United squad. Two offensive players shined for the Robins in the championship game: juniors Tyler Sarff and Joe Dubisar. Sarff had a hat trick while Dubisar scored twice. The Robins wouldn’t have been able to win their title without the Herculean efforts of goalie Charlie Wittmer. The senior net-minder had 29 saves and earned a spot on the PI All-Tournament Team.
--To see photo galleries from the tournaments, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 54 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 538
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,639
(*During the 2012-13 school year)