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Girls Basketball: Red Wing redeems opening weekend with win

Red Wing point guard McKayla "Bubba" Muelken makes a pass to teammate Kara Norvet during the first half Saturday against River Falls in the consolation final of the Red Wing Tip-Off Tournament. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Red Wing's Hailey Kuhl (right) fights with a River Falls defender for a loose ball during the first half of Saturday's Red Wing Tip-Off Tournament game at Red Wing High School. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

Head coach Dave Muelken knew it would have been easy for his Red Wing girls basketball team to hang their heads Saturday.

In the season opener Friday, the Wingers sputtered in the second half on the way to a one-point loss to Waseca.

It would have been easy to lie down, but Red Wing redeemed itself in the consolation title game of the Red Wing Tip-Off Tournament with a 57-55 victory over River Falls.

“We competed today, and that was the big thing,” Dave Muelken said.

Like on Friday, Red Wing came out running against the Wildcats, leading by as much as 15 midway through the first half. Thanks to large part to McKenzie Muelken scoring 20 of her game-high 31 points before halftime, Red Wing led 36-24 at the break.

In the second half, River Falls made a concerted effort to hit shots beyond the arc, hitting six 3-pointers to cut Red Wing’s lead to single digits. Once the game was within striking distance, the Wildcats continually fed the ball to their star post player, sophomore Karly Murphy, who scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the second half.

Posting up against a smaller Wingers lineup, Murphy helped River Falls tie the game at 52-52 with 4 minutes, 4 seconds remaining. Red Wing took the lead for a short time before a 3-pointer by Lauren Steinhoff put the Wildcats in a 55-55 tie with 55 seconds remaining.

The Wingers managed to kill time before McKayla “Bubba” Muelken was sent to the line with 6.5 seconds remaining. After struggling at the line Friday, Bubba hit her first free throw before clanking on the second. But off the miss, she came up with a timely steal and was intentionally fouled. While she missed both shots at the line, the foul kept the ball in the Wingers’ possession.

“Bubba made the big free throw today, and then she came up with what we call the ‘Rubio steal,’” Dave Muelken said. “River Falls took one step and she knew where the ball was going. She did a good job coming up with three steals.”

Down to 1.8 seconds, McKenzie Muelken made it 57-55 after hitting 1 of 2 at the line. On the second shot, McKenzie hit the ball off the rim and scooped up her own rebound to seal the win.

A day after shooting 13 percent in the second half, Red Wing’s offense continued to play well throughout Saturday’s game, and that made life easier for the players and coaches.

“It’s funny how the defense and energy is better after you make a couple shots,” Dave Muelken said.

Along with her 31 points, McKenzie Muelken added seven rebounds and four steals. Senior Kara Norvet secured a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

On Tuesday, Red Wing hits the road to play Austin in a non-conference tilt.

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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