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Girls Basketball: Determined Wingers battle back

Red Wing's Abi Deming guards Owatonna's Sydney Schultz along the baseline during the first half of Tuesday's Big Nine Conference game at Sonju Gymnasium. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Red Wing's Hannah Rodgers guards the paint against Owatonna's Julia Haarstad (23) during the first half of Tuesday's Big Nine Conference game at Sonju Gymnasium. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

If Red Wing was going to come back from an 18-3 deficit to Owatonna, the team needed to stay determined.

And if freshman post Abi Deming was to slow down Sydney Schultz, the Huskies' all-time leading scorer, she was going to need a lot of determination.

Thankfully, the third-ranked (Class AAA) Wingers found its determination before halftime. And that stayed with the team the rest of the way as Red Wing pulled off an unlikely 66-54 Big Nine Conference win over Owatonna on Tuesday.

The Wingers (10-1, 7-1 Big Nine) are now in the midst of a seven-game win streak.

"We came out and got a little shell-shocked by the speed at which they play," said Wingers head coach Jesse Nelson. "We were playing a team of all seniors. It was a little bit of an adjustment. We got them settled down and clawed back little by little. We've hung our hat on our defensive effort and that kept us in it."

With the two highest-scoring teams in the Big Nine on the Sonju Gymnasium court (Red Wing: 67.2 ppg; Owatonna: 65.1 ppg), it was Schultz that led Owatonna to a blazing start as the senior post scored 24 of her game-high 35 points in the first half.

"She's very good. I'll have to give it to her," Abi said. "It was very hard to guard her, but it was a good experience."

Schultz got her points, but as the game went on, Deming got stronger in defending one of the best scorers in the conference. Schultz scored her final basket at the 10-minute, 21-second mark of the second half to put Owatonna (8-5, 7-2 Big Nine) ahead 46-44.

From that point, the Wingers outscored the Huskies 22-8 as a combination of Abi in the post and pressure on the Huskies' guards made it tough to get the ball inside.

"The guards did really well playing pressure defense," said Abi, who finished with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds). "It was hard for them to get the ball in, and that helped me out a lot there. ... It was one of the hardest games I've ever played in."

Nelson said of Abi, "I often forget she's just a ninth-grader. She came out and battled with Owatonna's all-time leading scorer and one of the best players in the Big Nine. She kept getting stronger and stronger as the game went on. I was proud of the effort."

Red Wing's Lindsay Reps hit four 3-pointers for a team-high 25 points Tuesday against Owatonna. As for Red Wing's offense, once the 3-point shooters found their stroke, Owatonna couldn't keep up with the Wingers' scoring spurts. After trailing 18-3 at 11:46 of the first half, Red Wing got back-to-back 3-pointers from Dani Deming and Lindsay Reps that tied the game at halftime, 32-32.

"We did not come out strong like we should have," Reps said. "The teams we've been playing are not as intense as them. We took a timeout and we realized we had to get it together and push ourselves a little more."

Reps, who had a team-high 25 points with four 3-pointers, added, "It put some confidence in us going into the locker room (with a tied game). We knew we could do this, they weren't doing anything special. We just knew we could play with them."

A Hannah Rodgers layup to open the second half gave the team its first lead of the game.

Rodgers would be the one to put Red Wing ahead for good with a 3-pointer at 9:31 of the second half to make it 49-46.

"I'm so proud of how we faced real adversity against a really good team and we pulled through it for a convincing win," Nelson said.

Kyli Nelson finished with 10 points, six assists, three steals and four rebounds, Rodgers added eight points and six rebounds, and Buck hauled in nine rebounds to go with five points and four assists.

On Friday, Red Wing will be back home for a conference matchup with Mankato West.