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Girls Basketball: Wingers pull away from Mankato East

Last year, Red Wing lost three of its first four games, and two of those were not close. This season has been different, not just in the win column, but in how the Wingers have sprung to a 2-1 start, including a 66-52 victory over Big Nine Conference foe Mankato East on Tuesday.

Red Wing blew out Minneapolis North the day after Thanksgiving, and hung with Class 1A power Goodhue the following afternoon. Against the Cougars, a big lead was cut to one possession with 13 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game. But a freshman with a hot hand sent the Wingers into the locker room all smiles.

“My teammates got me open. They set good screens. And then I did that,” Kyli Nelson said with a laugh after scoring 15 points in the second half. All of the ninth-grader's points came on 3-pointers.

Shayla Karge led East with 28 points, but the next highest output was five points, which Abby Dressen and Mackenzie Schwein both hit. Karge was all but unstoppable in pulling the Cougars within three points. But she alone was not enough to overcome a Red Wing attack that hit 10 of 30 3-pointers, and came up with 12 steals.

“We faced some adversity. We got off to a great start then got into some foul trouble. I like the pressure we put on the ball, we just need to adjust to the officiating a little bit better,” said Red Wing head coach Jesse Nelson. “We shot the ball well in both halves. We had a lull in the first half, but we stayed patient. They got some momentum with that three-quarter court shot before halftime, but we responded.”

Karge flipped in a layup at 13:27 of the second half, with Lindsay Reps hitting a pair of free throws soon after. Tayzha Buck, who was in foul trouble most of the game, pushed the lead to six with a free throw of her own a half-minute later.

After Karge hit one of two from the line, Kyli hit the first of her five second-half 3-pointers at 10:17. That gave Red Wing a 45-37 lead, which was 64-44 less than seven minutes later. Kyli's assault was interrupted once my McKayla “Bubba” Muelken, twice by Morgan Zebro and three times by Karge. But Kyli outscored them all 15-13. It was an impressive showing from the freshman.

“I love where this (season) is going, and seeing Kyli make all those 3s tonight was awesome,” Muelken said. “We have good shooters in Morgan, Tayzha and Lindsay, so that helps to kick it out to them and have confidence that they'll make it. Everyone has a role and they all do well playing it.”

Zebro finished with 17 points, while Muelken led in rebounds, with seven, and assists, with four. Reps also scored in double figures with 14.

The Wingers (2-1, 1-0 Big Nine) heads to Stewartville on Thursday for one of their final two nonconference games. The Tigers are 0-1, having lost by 30 to Austin. It will be the fourth time Red Wing takes the floor, but another chance to keep humming along in what has been a great start to the season.

“We pressured (East) and figured that would be the best game plan going in,” Jesse said. “There's still room for improvement like finishing layups and rebounding, some execution things. But it's November.”

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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