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State Girls Basketball: DeLaSalle bests Red Wing for 3A title

Red Wing's Kara Norvet (11) has a layup blocked by DeLaSalle's Claire Thomas during the first half of Saturday's Class 3A championship game at the Target Center.

MINNEAPOLIS - After opening Saturday's Class 3A championship down 10-0 to two-time defending state champion DeLaSalle, it could have been easy for Red Wing to roll over.

But the resilient Wingers continued to fight back, going on an 11-2 run to close the first half, cutting the Islanders' lead to 30-28.

Not bad for a team whose main goal was just to make it to a Saturday game.

"We told the kids that we gave ourselves a chance and we did it for, I don't know, 28 or 30 minutes," said Red Wing head girls basketball coach Dave Muelken. "It could have been easy to close up shop. The kids just fought back."

The Wingers were scrappy, but DeLaSalle was just too strong in the second half, outscoring Red Wing 35-22 to secure its third consecutive 3A title in a 65-50 victory at the Target Center.

"Once they made that run and got it to double digits, we never got it back to striking distance," Dave Muelken said. "I'm just really proud of our kids and the effort. To get it back at halftime, I don't know if we put a scare in them, but I think we did."

It looked like the No. 2-seeded No. 2-ranked Islanders would cruise to another state title, jumping out to a 10-0 lead, thanks to point guard Allina Starr, who scored six of the team's first 10 points. Macy Kelly broke the Wingers' scoring drought at the 12-minute, 15-second mark with a 3-pointer, helping 5th-seeded and 10th-ranked Red Wing get into a flow offensively.

DeLaSalle managed to hold a double-digit lead until McKenzie Muelken hit a layup that made it 28-19 with 2:57 left in the first half. That sparked an 11-point run, capped off by McKenna Schaffer, who hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 28-28 with 41 seconds left in the half.

"Once we got down in the beginning, we stepped up and got back in it," said Kelly, who had a team-high 17 points in the loss. "We never gave up."

The Islanders (29-4) climbed back ahead right before the half thanks to a jumper from Natalie Eull.

"I don't think DeLaSalle has been pressured like that," said McKenzie Muelken, who finished with 13 points. Coming into Saturday's championship game, the Islanders won their first two state tournament games by an average of 24.5 points per game.

Red Wing kept the game close despite giving up 22 offensive rebounds for 21 second-chance points. Causing the most havoc in the post was Division I prospect Tyseanna Johnson. The future Iowa State Cyclone had a game-high 25 points with 12 rebounds (8 offensive) and five steals.

"They killed us on the boards. There's no other way to say it," Dave Muelken said. "They're incredibly athletic, they're long. It wasn't because we weren't trying. They're just really good."

The Wingers cut the Islanders' lead to two early in the second half, but DeLaSalle's defense proved to be suffocating, holding Red Wing to 27.3 percent shooting after halftime.

"In the second half, they picked it up, they went on a run and we couldn't answer," said Wingers senior Tesha Buck, who finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds. "We couldn't buy a shot."

Not only was DeLaSalle's defense strong; it was smart. Up by just four with 11:01 left, the Islanders looked in trouble when Starr picked up her fourth foul. Red Wing wanted to force the issue and get the future Auburn Tiger to foul out, but they never got the chance. Starr finished with 20 points, shooting 14 of 22 from the free-throw line.

"They didn't have her guard Tesha, they didn't have her guard Macy; they were just conscious to hide her somewhere," Dave Muelken said. "She was smart about what she was doing."

Leading 51-42 with 5:46 left, the Islanders held Red Wing to just two field goals for the remainder of the game, while pulling away by going 14 of 18 at the free-throw line during that stretch.

"DeLaSalle is so good," McKenzie Muelken said. "I give them all the credit in the world. It was a battle. I thought we had them at halftime, but they're really good."

With their season coming to an end at 23-8 overall, the Wingers had three players - Buck, Kelly and senior McKenna Schaffer - named to the All-Tournament team.

And the Wingers didn't leave the Target Center with much to be upset about.

"That was our goal, to get to this game and be in this position," Buck said. "I'm so proud of the girls; we made a great run."

RED WING (23-8): McKenzie Muelken 4-9 5-5 13, Macy Kelly 6-12 4-6 17, Kara Norvet 1-3 1-2 3, Tesha Buck 5-17 3-3 13, McKenna Schaffer 1-5 2-2 4. Totals 17-46 15-20 50.

DELASALLE (28-4): Claire Thomas 1-3 0-0 2, Tyseanna Johnson 10-22 5-6 25, Taylor Toney 0-3 1-2 1, Natalie Eull 2-7 2-3 6, Allina Starr 3-12 14-22 20, Patiance Griffin 3-11 0-0 8, Amanda Cline 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 20-61 22-33 65.

Halftime: DeLaSalle 30, Red Wing 28.

3-pointers: RW-Kelly; D-Griffin 2, Cline. Total Fouls: RW-23; D-18. Rebounds: RW-35 (Buck 16); D-43 (Johnson 12). Assists: RW-5 (Norvet 2); D-5 (Toney 2, Starr 2). Turnovers: RW-23; D-14.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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