Girls Basketball: Wingers get back on trackRed Wing stops a three-game losing skid with a 57-48 victory over Missota foe New Prague
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
There’s just something about beating New Prague that makes the Red Wing girls basketball team break out in song.
After a 61-51 victory over the Trojans on Jan. 8, Wingers head coach Dave Muelken said his team was singing, albeit off-key, during the bus ride home.
And after going on a 17-3 run over the final seven minutes of Tuesday’s 57-48 Missota Conference win over fifth-ranked (3A) New Prague, the Red Wing locker room was alive with the sound of music.
Enduring a tough three-game slide heading into Tuesday’s top 10 showdown, the 8th-ranked (3A) Wingers were ready to live it up after a win.
“We were tired of getting our butts kicked,” sophomore McKenzie Muelken admitted. “It was fun to get back on track. We came ready to play.”
New Prague’s outside shooters also came to play early on as the Trojans’ first seven buckets were 3-pointers. After three consecutive layups by Lexi Ruehling, New Prague held a 28-24 edge at halftime.
“We knew they weren’t going to hit those shots all game,” said Red Wing senior Tesha Buck. “Good teams like that go on runs. We just had to stick with them in the second half.”
Trailing 38-31 in the second half, Red Wing forward Macy Kelly hit a 3-pointer to cut New Prague’s lead to four. On the next possession, McKenzie Cota missed a pair of free throws, but after an offensive rebound, Cota made up for it with a putback. Then with 10:31 left in the game, Kelly hit a layup to tie the game at 38-38.
While the Wingers hit just three 3-pointers, Kelly and McKenzie Muelken were able to push their way through the post, finishing with 14 points apiece.
“To get 28 points from those two was huge,” Dave Muelken said. “Other than the three 3-pointers, we were able to hit a lot of interior baskets.”
The Trojans (14-6, 5-4 Missota) climbed back to take a 45-40 lead after a layup by Ella Grote with just more than seven minutes left in the game. The next time down the court, McKenzie Muelken hit a baseline jumper, followed by a Red Wing timeout with 7:04 remaining.
From there, Buck took over.
With 6:01 left, Buck tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, then she put the Wingers (15-5, 7-3 Missota) up for good at 5:29 with a jumper inside the 3-point line. Buck continued to spearhead the run with a mid-court pass that found McKenzie Muelken under the hoop for the easy layup, a 49-45 advantage and a huge lift from the crowd.
“A big crowd like that, that really helps on those big runs like that,” said Buck, who finished the game with 21 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks.
“Tesha made everyone on the floor better tonight,” Dave Muelken added. “She was just finding the open girls all night.”
Taking an 51-45 lead with another inside jumper by Buck with 1:55 left, the Wingers were aided by a strong second-half surge on the defensive end as the Trojans were held to just three 3-pointers after halftime.
“When we took a timeout with about seven minutes left, we told the girls, ‘There’s a lot of time, we need to get defensive stops,’” Dave Muelken said. “It’s as simple as it sounds, and that’s what they did. … Someone like McKenna Schaffer, the numbers don’t show how good a game she had defending Dittberner. I don’t think Dittberner had very much fun tonight.”
Kara Norvet added six points, five assists and five rebounds for Red Wing. Dittberner paced New Prague with 17 points, while Ruehling added 15 in the loss.
Dave Muelken admitted he didn’t know the last time the Wingers swept the regular-season series with the Trojans, but it was a relief to get back in the win column on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Red Wing hits the road for a big Section 1AAA showdown with Kasson-Mantorville in a rematch of last season’s section final. The Wingers and KoMets met in Winona over the holiday break, with Red Wing securing a 53-52 victory.
“It was so much fun tonight. We have to keep that going,” McKenzie Muelken said.