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Girls Basketball: Defense solid, but not enough in Wingers' loss

Red Wing's Abi Deming hauls in a rebound during the first half of Thursday's Big Nine Conference game against Northfield at Sonju Gymnasium. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Red Wing's Elle Thorson looks to the perimeter as Northfield's Annika Richardson defends during Thursday's Big Nine Conference game at Sonju Gymnasium. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Red Wing's Kyli Nelson drives the lane for a layup attempt during the second half of Thursday's Big Nine Conference game at Sonju Gymnasium. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Red Wing took a loss on Thursday, but got an important lesson out out of it: The defense is good enough to lift the team on a bad shooting night.

In an early-season showdown of two top-10 Class AAA teams, the Wingers had a 45-44 lead with 41 seconds to go despite shooting 26 percent on the night. But, Northfield would leave Sonju Gymnasium with the 46-45 victory after Annika Hoff scored the game-winning layup with 19 seconds remaining.

A last-second 3-point attempt by Red Wing's Lindsay Reps bounced off the rim to secure the Raiders' win.

"Our defense kept us in it," said Wingers head coach Jesse Nelson. "If we're going to play great defense, we're going to be in every game whether we shoot well or not. It's going to be a battle with Northfield every time, and we got better tonight."

Both teams struggled in the scoring department in the first half with the score at 19-19 at the break. After struggling to work the ball inside during the first 18 minutes, Northfield fed the ball into the paint and opened the second half on an 8-2 run. With 8:38 to play, the Raiders went up 37-30 after a layup by Emma Carlson.

Three-point shooting proved elusive for the Wingers as they went 7 of 37 from beyond the arc, but the two biggest 3-pointers of the night gave Red Wing a brief lead. Down 41-37, Kyli Nelson and Tayzha Buck hit back-to-back outside shots for a 43-41 Winger lead with 1:30 to play.

"That was awesome. They kept shooting and didn't get down on themselves," said Red Wing junior forward Hannah Rodgers.

Seventh-ranked Northfield responded with a 3-pointer via Grace Touchette before Rodgers scored a wide-open layup with 41 seconds left.

"I just had to get open," said Rodgers, who finished with three points, four rebounds and two assists. "I cut and happened to be there to get that for us. That (ending) was a little crazy. We were trying to keep the energy up and get an open shot."

Using its size one more time, Northfield took the lead for good on Hoff's layup. For the rest of the game, eighth-ranked Red Wing tried working the ball around for an open shot but saw the ball poked out of bounds with a second to go. Reps could only catch and shoot on the unsuccessful final shot.

"The kids make good decisions and play with their instincts and I think nine times out of 10 I'm going to let them play and try to get a shot off," Nelson said of the final 19 seconds. "I trust our kids to make the right decision at crunch time."

Reps had a game-high 13 points along with five rebounds and four assists, and Kyli added 10 points and four rebounds. Abi Deming approached a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.

Touchette led Northfield (1-0) with 11 points.

The Wingers (3-1, 1-1 Big Nine) are off until Friday, Dec. 8 when they host Rochester Century.