Facing the top sophomore recruit in the state, Red Wing knew it would have a tough time with Shakopee Friday night.
The Sabers indeed ran away with the game, 62-40. But it wasn’t Taylor Koenen that did the damage. Instead, Shakopee used most of its varsity roster to keep the Wingers in check including first-half 3-pointers from six different players.
“They’re very balanced,” said Red Wing head coach Dave Muelken. “They’re No. 11 in the state in QRF in Class 4A. They’re up there for a reason. If playoffs started today, they’d be the No. 1 seed in their section with (Bloomington) Kennedy, Chaska, Chanhassen, and they went down to Owatonna last week and gave Owatonna its first loss of the season. They’re really good.”
Koenen finished with 13 points, three fewer than teammate Annie Rhinesmith. Shakopee also had two players – Emily Horsmann and Haley Zerr – with nine points. As a team, the Sabers hit nine 3-pointers and shot nearly 70 percent from the field.
“Our girls were coachable, they did what we asked them to do,” Muelken said. “We said, ‘Take Koenen away. Take Koenen away. Make someone else beat us.’ In the first half, six different girls hit a 3(-pointer), and they shot really well in the second half, too.”
McKenzie Muelken led the Wingers with 16 points, 10 of which came in the first half. With 13 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first, McKenzie Muelken gave Red Wing its only lead of the game at 6-4. But the Sabers answered with a 9-0 run, and then a 7-0 spurt after the Wingers pulled within 13-9.
The two teams traded baskets into the halftime break where Shakopee led 32-17.
The back-and-forth exchange continued until Red Wing put together a six-point run with 11:49 to play. But it would not be enough as Rhinesmith scored five quick points to push the lead back to a comfortable 14 points.
By the final few minutes, both teams populated the hardwood with underclassmen, a move that gave a glimpse into the near future of two teams with a combined six seniors.
“We had Tayzha (Buck) play in the first half, and then we had all those ninth-graders out late in the second half,” Dave Muelken said. “They did some good things, and that experience is invaluable. What we have to do is make sure this helps us get better.”
Red Wing (6-8 overall, 2-3 Missota) will host new Section 4AAA rival St. Paul Highland Park Tuesday. Coach Muelken knows it’s not much, but it will give his team a quick look at some new competition.
“We really need to take this and learn from it,” Dave Muelken said. “There are teams (in the section) other than New Prague that we don’t know very well … Then we can kind of get a gauge on how they do against the rest of the section.”