Tied at 25-25 against an upset-minded Academy of Holy Angels, Red Wing figured it had two options.
"We knew we could do one of two things: we could shut down in the second half," said Wingers senior forward Macy Kelly, "or we could show them our real team.
"We just had to be the better team and come out with the win."
Trailing 42-41 midway through the second half, a 7-0 run, sparked by five straight points by senior guard Tesha Buck, put Red Wing past a scrappy Stars' lineup in a 65-58 Missota Conference victory Tuesday in Red Wing.
"It wasn't pretty," Wingers head coach Dave Muelken admitted. "We didn't play well. We could have fallen apart, we could have cracked or imploded and we didn't."
The usual suspects for Red Wing were able to get on the board in the first half, with Buck scoring 10 points and Kelly and McKenzie Muelken chipping in five points apiece. But missed layups and a 5-for-13 start at the free-throw line that extended into the second half hindered the Wingers' chance of taking the lead.
"I don't know how many layups you can miss and still win," Dave Muelken said. "Whatever the record is, I think we set it tonight. They were layups and we either didn't catch it or didn't make it. The kids get frustrated, then one mistake becomes two and they start doubting themselves."
After a balanced attack paved the way in the first half, Holy Angels (7-8, 0-4 Missota) force-fed the ball down low to junior Kate Banovetz, who scored two quick buckets to help the Stars to a 31-27 lead with 14 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game. The 6-foot junior scored all 15 of her points in the second half.
Hitting a 3-pointer at the 10:26 mark to give Red Wing the 39-37 lead, Buck started to heat up. Then Buck dropped her fifth 3-pointer of the game to make it a 44-42 Wingers lead and Red Wing (13-2, 5-0 Missota) never trailed the rest of the game. Buck finished with a game-high 27 points.
With a jumper by Laura Bagwell-Katalinich and a layup from Mary Margaret Duffy, Holy Angels kept Red Wing's lead to just four points. But with 6:06 left, the Wingers' McKenna Schaffer converted her second put-back of the second half, boosting Red Wing's lead to 54-48.
"Kenna really stepped up tonight," Kelly said of Schaffer, who finished with 10 points. "It's nice to have her finish those underneath."
Dave Muelken added, "McKenna was very big for us. She played like a senior; she did the things she was capable of doing and they were big baskets. ... Those (put-backs) were backbreakers."
Kelly cemented the Wingers' victory by scoring five of her 13 points in the final five minutes.
"We all have those games where our shots aren't falling, you're missing layups, you're turning the ball over," said Kelly, who also had nine rebounds. "We knew we had to focus and get this game over. ... A win's a win."
Buck added eight rebounds and five steals, and McKenzie Muelken finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals in the Red Wing victory.
Against a team that is winless in the conference, Tuesday's results were frustrating, but the hope among the team is this makes the Wingers battle-tested later in the season. Red Wing resumes Missota play Friday at Northfield, which also enters the game winless in the conference.
"It's going to build us," Kelly said. "Now we know what to work on and what to expect next time we see (Holy Angels)."