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Girls Basketball: Byron ends Wingers' season with section loss

Red Wing's Lindsay Reps guards a Byron player during the first half of Wednesdays' Section 1AAA quarterfinal game at Sonju Gymnasium. (Republican Eagle photo by Kit Murray)1 / 2
Red Wing's McKayla "Bubba" Muelken tries to drive around a Byron defender during the first half of Wednesday's Section 1AAA quarterfinal game at Sonju Gymnasium. Muelken had 11 points and nine assists in the Wingers' 70-60 loss. (Republican Eagle photo by Kit Murray)2 / 2

Defensive pressure and shooting from 3-point range has been the motto for the Red Wing girls’ basketball team this year, but it just wasn’t enough to take down fifth-seeded Byron as the fourth-seeded Wingers fell 70-60 in a Section 1AAA quarterfinal game Wednesday night at Sonju Gymnasium.

Having their regular-season matchup canceled due to weather, it was the first live action between the teams this year. However, that lack of game experience did little to deter coach Jesse Nelson from preparing his squad.

“We’ve seen Byron play before and they did what we thought they’d do,” Nelson said.

Unfortunately for the Wingers, what they thought Byron would do was unleash the height advantage of junior center Ayoka Lee. The 6-foot 5-inch Kansas State University commit was dominant in the post all night, scoring 49 points — with 27 coming in the first half.

Lee’s height was just too much, as Red Wing couldn’t find an answer.

“We weren’t going to get any taller down in the post,” said Nelson. “We tried keeping a girl in front of her and behind her. The girls executed as well as they could.

“(Lee) did everything we thought she’d do and executed very well doing it.”

Despite the outcome, Red Wing had many positives to take away from the game — overwhelming defensive pressure being one of them. The Wingers set the tone early in the game by forcing two quick turnovers and getting a block from senior Ellynn Braunreiter in the opening five possessions. The pressure never let up as the Wingers forced a total of 15 turnovers by game’s end.

“We executed really well in that aspect all game long,” Nelson said in reference to the team’s defensive ball pressure.

Offensively, the Wingers found success cycling the ball from beyond the arc to find open looks on 3-pointers. Nelson said unselfish play has been a constant with the team, and Wednesday night was no different. Attacking the basket and passing the ball back out was a big part of the game plan after first-half adjustments.

“We executed well offensively and defensively, unfortunately Byron was just a little bit better tonight,” Nelson said.

Kyli Nelson led the Wingers with 21 points, all coming from seven 3-pointers. Lindsay Reps finished with 15 points, McKayla “Bubba” Muelken 11, Morgan Zebro 9 and Abi Deming 4. Red Wing scored 51 of their 60 points on 3-pointers. Muelken also added 9 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds, and Kyli finished with 5 assists in the loss.

Although the loss ends the Wingers’ season, Nelson says there is plenty to be optimistic for next season.

“We graduate six seniors (this year) and they will be missed and tough to replace,” Nelson said. “But we have some really young, good players coming up.”

Jake Pfeifer

Jake Pfeifer is a reporter and outdoors editor for RiverTown Multimedia. Previously, he worked at Detroit Lakes Newspapers.

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