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Red Wing's Hailey Kuhl, center, holds on as a Winona defender tries to pull the ball loose after Kuhl missed a free throw Saturday. Kuhl held on, giving possession to the Wingers, who held on to beat Winona, 46-43. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Girls Basketball: Wingers hold on, defeat Winona

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Hard work. Effort. Hustle.

Call it what you want, but coaches the world over will take as much of it as they can. Rarely does something bad happen because of it. Often what happens is something good, something that would not have happened with skill alone.

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With the score tied, and 16 seconds on the clock, Red Wing senior Hailey Kuhl stepped to the free throw line with a chance to give the Wingers a lead and a bit of a cushion. Kuhl floated her first attempt at the basket, and watched it fall. The advantage belonged to Red Wing. Moments later, Kuhl’s second free throw clanged off the rim.

But Kuhl did not stand and watch. Instead, the Winger forward lurched ahead, snagged the offensive rebound, and held on for what would end up as a jump ball.

“She missed the free throw and didn’t hang her head, she just went and got the offensive rebound, I mean, that’s what she does,” said Red Wing head coach Dave Muelken. “You just see the hustle plays with her. Ten points, five rebounds, a couple of steals, she’s all over. She’s playing great.”

The possession arrow belonged to the home squad. Kara Norvet calmly sank her two free throws after a timeout and a foul, giving the Wingers a 46-43 victory over Winona.

“When I missed that second one, I was pretty ticked,” Kuhl said. “That rebound was more out of frustration than anything. But we got the ball back and Kara … made both her free throws which really helped secure (the win) for us. We knew that we could give up any layup or anything under the basket, which helps a lot, because they weren’t very good 3-point shooters.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The Winhawks called timeout with 11 seconds to play to set up a chance to tie the game. But a missed 3-pointer ended with two Winona chances in the paint, neither of which moved the net.

The close finish was far from expected at halftime as Red Wing took a 26-13 advantage into the locker room. But the Wingers’ offense took the stairs to the top of The Cage, and walked out into the winter air where it stayed for the remainder of the game.

Red Wing hit just six field goals in the second half, all of which came in the first nine minutes. Over the other nine minutes of the half, the Wingers’ points came on six made free throws in 10 attempts.

“We’re proud of the kids,” Muelken said, “they found a way to win. Against Waseca (in the first game of the season), we had the same drought, and we didn’t find a way to win. (Saturday), we got to the free-throw line. Hailey made one, (McKenzie) Cota made one, Kara made two, so we did some things, at least late, that helped us win the game.”

During that first half, the Wingers were able to move the ball at will offensively. Led by Norvet and McKayla Muelken at the point, Red Wing routinely found the back door of Winona’s zone defense, leading to a 13-point first half for McKenzie Muelken. Norvet had all three of her assists in the first 18 minutes, but scored all seven of her points in the second half.

Maddie Faas led the Wingers with six rebounds, adding four points. Norvet pulled in five boards as Nota supplemented six points.

Any cold spell Monday will be tough for Red Wing (4-1) to overcome in a game at Lakeville South. The Cougars (2-2) are ranked eighth in Class 4A, up two spots from their initial spot in the polls.

“That’s going to be a tough game,” Muelken said. “But it’s a game that will make us better.”

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Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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