State Girls Basketball: Red Wing heads into a state clash with a familiar foeFresh off of a 57-48 Missota Conference victory over New Prague on Feb. 5, Red Wing head girls basketball coach Dave Muelken gave a bold prediction to his team.
Fresh off of a 57-48 Missota Conference victory over New Prague on Feb. 5, Red Wing head girls basketball coach Dave Muelken gave a bold prediction to his team.
“Back when we beat them back in February, we told the kids after the game, ‘We’re not done with them. You know we’re going to see them again,’” Dave Muelken said.
But even Muelken admitted he didn’t expect to see the 7th-ranked Trojans this soon. In hindsight, the Missota Conference rematch was inevitable.
“It was kind of logical when you look at Richfield, DeLaSalle and Fergus (Falls),” Dave Muelken said. Richfield, DeLaSalle and Fergus Falls got the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, respectively.
“We were almost lining up for the four or five (seed) six weeks ago. If we took care of business, neither one of us was jumping over those three. It was looking like the 4-5 the whole way.”
The first-round game gets underway at noon Wednesday at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
Making their third straight trip to state, there is a higher sense of optimism this time around for the 10th-ranked Wingers. In the last two state appearances, Red Wing was paired against the No. 1 seed in the first round. This time around, they are the No. 5 seed against No. 4 New Prague.
“It definitely feels like more equal ground,” said Wingers junior Kara Norvet. “This year, we’re not going to be happy if we lose. It would be an opportunity wasted.”
Better yet, this year’s first-round game comes versus a team Red Wing (21-7) went 2-0 against. The first win came on Jan. 8, 61-51, in New Prague, then the Wingers completed the regular-season sweep on Feb. 5 at home, 57-48.
“The good news is we beat them twice. The bad news is we beat them twice,” Dave Muelken chuckled.
Sophomore McKenzie Muelken added, “They’re going to come out fighting. I have a lot of respect for New Prague and it’s not going to be easy. We are the better team, but we’re going to have to play a really good game to defeat them.”
And the key to knocking off the Trojans (22-6) comes down to stopping the senior combo of Annie Dittberner and Lexi Ruehling. Dittberner leads New Prague with 15.6 points per game and 80 assists, while Ruehling has done the dirty work down low with 13.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
“Dittberner’s an ‘A’ player. She’s really good,” Dave Muelken said. “Lexi runs the floor, she rebounds and she sets screens.”
But the two are hardly the only threat for the Trojans.
“Then they have four role players that play as well as anybody we’re going to see,” Dave Muelken said. “If they’re open, they’ll hit shots. ... They’re very good role players who are very good basketball players. They’re just a really good basketball team.”
But after consecutive years of being one-and-done at state, the Wingers enter the state tournament with a chip on their shoulders in hopes of making it to Saturday.
“It’s more like a business trip going out this year,” Norvet said. “Kind of like section finals was this year. We’re happy to go, but we’re not happy just with that; we want to build off that and keep going.”