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Girls Basketball: State runner-up Wingers adjusting to new-look lineup

Red Wing’s McKenzie Muelken, pictured in last year’s Class 3A state quarterfinals, is the top returning scorer for the Wingers at 10.0 points per game in 2012-13. Red Wing opens the season with the Red Wing Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 29-30. (RE file photo)

Not only is the Red Wing girls basketball team replacing three players, they are looking for a new identity.

With the graduation of Tesha Buck, Macy Kelly and McKenna Schaffer, the Wingers are replacing 3,939 career points, as well as a core of players who helped Red Wing to three straight state tournament berths.

“That was 35 or 40 points a game, at least and around 4,000 career points,” Wingers’ head coach Dave Muelken said. “It was also a lot of rebounds and a lot of leadership.”

That’s a lot to replace for last year’s Class 3A runner-ups. But make no mistake: The Wingers are confident in the talent of its new crop of players.

“I think a lot of people don’t think we have it in us, but we’re going to work hard and these last couple days of practice have shown how hard we are working,” senior forward Hailey Kuhl said. “We want to show people we’re going to be a successful team this year.”

The Wingers have two starters back from last year’s 23-8 team in senior guard Kara Norvet and junior forward McKenzie Muelken. McKenzie is the team’s top returning scorer after averaging 10.0 points per game.

With Buck and Kelly continuing their basketball careers at Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Benedict, respectively, McKenzie knows she’ll have to be one of the players counted on to shoulder the load.

“When I get nervous, I can’t chuck it to Macy or Tesha,” McKenzie said laughing. “It’s going to be different for us, but it’s going to be fun.”

Norvet added, “I’m going to have to look to be a more of a leader and more of a scorer. Everyone has to look to score more without Tesha and Macy and McKenna.”

As far as pushing the ball up, the Wingers are looking at a young group of players in freshmen McKayla “Bubba” Muelken and Adelle DeSutter, as well as eighth-grader Tayzha Buck.

“Bubba had a lot of experience last year. She’ll be running that point, getting us set and pushing the ball hard,” Dave Muelken said. “Tayzha’s going to get an opportunity, Adelle’s going to get an opportunity, Morgan (Zebro) is going to get an opportunity.”

Adding some mystery is what the Wingers will see from opposing defenses. A year ago, everything ran through Tesha Buck, the Republican Eagle’s All-Area Player of the Year and a second team All-State selection. Now, Coach Muelken hopes to have a plethora of players take on the ball-handling responsibilities.

“We’ll have eight kids take six-to-10 shots a game. Now, they have to guard everybody, and we do have some shooters,” Dave Muelken said. “If we have eight kids average seven points a game, I’d be pretty happy.”

If there’s one point of the 2012-13 season that has the more experienced players excited, it’s remembering last season’s Class 3A semifinal game against Richfield. In that game, all three seniors fouled out, forcing the team’s role players to close out the game. The Wingers passed the test with flying colors, advancing to the state championship game with a 61-59 victory.

“That showed everyone what was to come and we’ll be able to handle ourselves,” Norvet said. “A lot of them gained so much confidence from that and they just build off of it. We use that as a reminder that we’re not lost without those three.”

Starting at the Red Wing Tip-Off Classic Nov. 29, the Wingers are ready for whatever happens and hope to get stronger along the way.

“It’s going to be a constant work-in-process,” Dave Muelken added. “Where we’re at today and where we’re at in February, I think we’ll see a drastic change.”

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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