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Girls Basketball: Wingers' comeback falls just short

Red Wing's McKayla "Bubba" Muelken (left) gets around Kasson-Mantorville's Kari Pingel during the first half of Thursday's non-conference game at Red Wing. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

With Kasson-Mantorville leading by 21 points in the second half, Red Wing seemed ready to concede a non-conference loss as the team sent its bench players onto the floor.

But instead of letting the clock wind down, the Wingers’ youngsters gave the team a much-needed lift as the KoMets’ lead dwindled away to one after a 3-pointer by Morgan Zebro with 25 seconds remaining.

Kasson-Mantorville eventually left Sonju Gymnasium with the 64-59 victory, but Red Wing showed some fight, which has been sorely needed for a team in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

“We fought back, which was encouraging to see. It was all young kids, not a single senior on the floor,” said Wingers head coach Dave Muelken. “That isn’t putting our seniors down: Hailey Kuhl had four fouls, (Kara Norvet’s) foot is really hurting, but she’s fighting through it. … Those young kids worked really hard, scored a few baskets and gave us some energy.”

Early on, it was the KoMets that came out with more energy, namely on the offensive glass. Going up 32-27 at halftime, K-M snagged 10 offensive rebounds in the first 18 minutes, led by 6-foot-2 freshman post Kristin Scott.

“That’s all we talked about at halftime,” Dave Muelken said of the team’s rebounding woes.

“My dad mentions that we have to play hard all 36 minutes. We didn’t do that in the first half,” Red Wing forward McKenzie Muelken added.

And in the second half, the KoMets opened with a 16-2 run, with nine straight points coming at the end of the run by Cori Kennedy. With 7 minutes, 41 seconds left in the game, Kennedy, who finished with a game-high 30 points, scored a layup to put her team up 53-32.

That brought in a wave of young Winger players, followed by a huge boost in momentum.

Down 60-41 after a pair of free throws from Kennedy, Red Wing made its final charge, started by a jumper by McKenzie Muelken at 2:10. Piecing together an 18-point run in 65 seconds, Zebro’s 3-pointer with 25 seconds left turned the sure blowout into an improbable comeback.

“In the last 12 minutes, the younger girls really stepped up,” McKenzie Muelken said. “I’m real proud of Tayzha (Buck), Morgan, Adelle (DeSutter). They brought energy, and that’s what we needed.”

Dave Muelken added, “The effort and intensity that last 10 minutes was great. The kids played harder, picked up full-court pressure and were more aggressive offensively.”

Even with Red Wing breathing down their necks, K-M managed to close out the game, thanks to Kennedy. The junior guard went a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line over the final 20 seconds to end the hopes of a Wingers comeback.

McKenzie Muelken had a team-high 21 points to go with four rebounds, and McKenzie Cota had nine points, six rebounds and four steals off the bench. McKayla “Bubba” Muelken came up with seven points, five assists and five rebounds in the Red Wing loss.

For the KoMets, 20 of Kennedy’s 30 points came in the second half. Scott finished with 16 points, and Taylor Miller added nine points.

The late comeback was a lift, but the fact remains that the Wingers have not won since Jan. 17 at Northfield.

“I’m sick and tired of losing,” McKenzie Muelken said. “We have to start winning.”

Red Wing’s next hope for a victory comes Friday when the team travels to Missota Conference rival Farmington. Now, the Wingers hope Thursday’s late run carries over into Friday’s road tilt.

“Hopefully we just flush the first half and focus on the last 12 minutes of the game,” McKenzie Muelken said. “We owe Farmington one. We have to get them, and we just need more energy.”

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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