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Buck paves way in return to Minnesota

Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman and Red Wing native Tesha Buck lines up a 3-pointer during the first half of Wednesday's Women's NIT tournament game against Minnesota at Williams Arena. Buck finished with a team-high 18 points for the Phoenix. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Fans hoist up signs in support of Red Wing native Tesha Buck after a timeout is called in the first half of Wednesday's Women's NIT tournament game between Wisconsin-Green Bay and Minnesota at Williams Arena. Buck had three 3-pointers in the first half. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS — Once she knew her University of Wisconsin-Green Bay basketball team was heading to Williams Arena, Red Wing’s Tesha Buck got on the phone to speak with her family.

Well, speak isn’t quite the right word.

“Actually, I called my mom screaming, ‘Mom, we’re coming back home,” Buck said. “After that, I tried to text as many people as I could.”

Just over a year after leading Red Wing to a win in the Class 3A state quarterfinals, Buck returned to Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus on Wednesday. This time, she walked onto the raised floor as a freshman on UW-Green Bay, facing off with the Golden Gophers in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

During pregame introductions, Buck came on the floor last for the Phoenix. With many fans in Red Wing purple, and a few sporting signs of support for the former Winger, Buck received the kind of ovation from the crowd that’s usually reserved for players in maroon and gold.

“Coming out and seeing your family in the stands was a lot of fun,” Buck said. “It was special.”

Back on March 13, 2013, Buck led the way for Red Wing with a 32-point, 11-rebound effort against New Prague in the state quarterfinals. And on Wednesday, she led UW-Green Bay with a team-high 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Thirteen of those points, including three 3-pointers, came before halftime, helping the Phoenix to a 33-23 lead at the break.

“My teammates found the open player and I just happened to knock down my shots,” Buck said. “It turned out well.”

Ultimately, the game turned in the Gophers’ favor. Led by Rachel Banham’s 31 points, Minnesota avoided a home loss with a 62-60 victory.

The mood was somber for the Phoenix after the loss, but that didn’t deter the show of support Buck got after the game. Walking back onto the court, Buck got the kind of warm reception from family and fans that she needed.

“I just went to my dad right away and he said, ‘You gotta be proud. You guys worked hard and there’s plenty of basketball left,’” Buck said.

It was a bitter ending to her freshman season but Buck proved her worth on the court, winning Horizon League Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while finishing first on the team in steals (58) and second in assists (119).

“She’s been putting up good numbers all year. If her numbers haven’t been in the scoring column, they’ve been in the rebounding column, assists column or steal column,” UW-Green Bay head coach Kevin Borseth said about Buck in the post-game press conference. “She really does a lot of things and is coming into her own defensively. She’s done a good job coming in as a freshman.”

Wednesday’s loss notwithstanding, Buck was positive about her first season with the Phoenix, but she expects even bigger things in the future.

“We graduate two big players and leaders on our team (in seniors Breannah Ranger and Sam Zastrow),” Buck said. “I think people are going to have something to talk about next year, so I’m excited. We’re going to work hard this summer.”

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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