NORTHFIELD -- In preparing his team to face New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and super sophomore Carlie Wagner on Saturday, Goodhue girls basketball coach Josh Weime used other talented opponents as comparisons.
“We tried to compare her to girls we play: ‘She’s kind of like this, but quicker. She’s kind of like that, but faster, shoots better, jumps higher.’ ”
In other words, Wagner is capable of doing a lot on the basketball court. In fact, Weime said, “She does things that we never see. How do you prepare if you don’t see it?”
Not surprisingly, Wagner was the star of Saturday’s non-conference game at Carleton College, scoring a school-record 39 points. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, the second-ranked team in Class 2A, recorded a 77-68 victory over the Wildcats, who are No. 2 in 1A. NRHEG improved to 20-0 and Goodhue is 17-3.
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva is one of only five undefeated girls basketball teams in the state, and the only one in 2A. (The others are Hopkins in 4A and Parkers Prairie, North Woods and Win-E-Mac in 1A.) Wagner has been a key to the Panthers’ success, and Saturday’s school record was only her latest headline.
University of Minnesota coach Pam Borton came to the first practice of the season at NRHEG. … Wagner scored her 1,000 career point in the ninth game of her sophomore year. … She holds the school record in the high jump. … In the first half Saturday, Wagner outscored the entire Goodhue team 22-21.
Opposing coaches have been trying to figure out ways to slow Wagner for years. NRHEG coach John Schultz, who was a youth coach when Wagner was in elementary school, remembers a fourth-grade coach shouting “Take her left side away! She’s lefthanded!” Wagner, however, is not lefthanded. “You can’t tell the difference,” Schultz said.
Wagner, a 5-foot-10 guard, dribbles and scores with either hand. She throws lob passes to talented teammates Anna Schlaak and Jade Schultz, who like Wagner are highly skilled in other sports, too. Schlaak, a 6-foot senior, will play volleyball at NCAA Division II powerhouse Concordia University in St. Paul. Schultz, sophomore daughter of the coach, is a dominating pitcher during the softball season.
Wagner is more prone to pass than shoot, and John Schultz said he has to remind Carlie that it’s OK to put the ball in the hoop.
“She will turn it over sometimes or be too unselfish, and I keep telling her, ‘Keep shooting.’ In her mind I think she knows how many points she gets and she wants to get rid of the ball. That’s the kind of person she is; she’s trying to keep her teammates satisfied.
“She’s a very humble kid. She’s worried more about her teammates and succeeding as a team.”
Saturday’s game was a chance for both teams to prepare for the postseason. The West Gym at Carleton College is a 94-foot court, the same size as Williams Arena and Target Center, where the state tournament will be held in March. NRHEG used the long court to full advantage, running a rapid-fire transition offense with defensive rebounds setting up lengthy passes to Wagner for easy layups.
“To tell you the truth I don’t even remember if any of the kids knew what offense we were running, because it was all transition,” John Schultz said. “Even if they had one kid back we were going to force the issue and push to the hole.”
Most of Wagner’s 22 first-half points came in a half-court offense, while the bulk of her 17 second-half points came on fast-break layups. With sophomore Mikayla Miller (30 points, 10 rebounds and five steals) leading the way, Goodhue whittled down NRHEG’s lead late in the second half. As the Wildcats were forced to foul in the final couple minutes, Wieme hollered, “Anybody but three!” Number 3 is Wagner, of course.
She said she’s been surprised by the attention she is receiving as a sophomore.
“You’ve just got to kind of go with it,” she said. “It’s exciting and cool and it’s kind of like you weren’t expecting it at this age. You just go with the flow.”
Another pleasant surprise has been the Panthers’ success this season. “We knew it was going to be special, but I don’t think we quite had the idea in our head that we were going to go undefeated,” Wagner said. “But it’s happened and we’re working really hard and molding together really well. Our chemistry is really strong on and off the court, and we just work really hard.”
With two high school seasons remaining after this one, Wagner’s future is bright. And there are more Wagners on the way; in fact seventh-grade twins Maddie and Marnie Wagner (pictured with Carlie) are already seeing some varsity playing time.
Carlie is the family star on the basketball court, but Marnie owns a 1-0 lead on Carlie in one statistic: total number of deer taken during the hunting season.
“She blew me out of the water,” Carlie said.
Marnie and Maddie saw some second-half playing time Saturday, and fans will keep seeing all the Wagner girls.
“We’re young,” John Schultz said. “Hopefully we’ll be around for a while.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 255
*Miles John has driven: 5,745
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