NRHEG girls rally from 13-point deficit to win Section 2AA title, earn berth to state tournament
Mankato – After facing a 13-point deficit in the first half, Maddie Wagner hit a deep trey to spark a run for the NRHEG girls basketball team. Her sister, Marnie, turned the spark into an explosion.
Scoring a game-high 20 points, Marnie Wagner guided the Panthers (25-5) to a 53-45 comeback win Friday night in the Section 2AA championship game over state-ranked Norwood-Young America (27-2) at the Bresnan Arena on the campus of MSU-Mankato, earning a berth to the upcoming state tournament. Panthers head coach Onika Peterson stated afterward that the grit shown by her team to rally from a poor start shows a lot about their character.
“I think it says how much heart the girls have,” she added. “They didn’t want the season to be over and they worked really hard. It was fun to see.”
In the first 12 minutes, the Panthers may have played their worst basketball of the season, registering just a single basket. On six-straight possessions, the Raiders forced NRHEG into two steals, had two blocks and generated a pair of errant passes.
Then, Maddie hit the trey and for the remaining six minutes of the half, the Panthers started to play Panther basketball as Peterson noted.
“Being down by as many as we were to go into the half down five, I told the girls that it’s exactly where we wanted to be,” commented Peterson. “We needed to get every single loose ball, every single rebound and just play Panther basketball and bust their busts and they did.”
While Maddie only had three points in the half, Marnie picked up the slack, scoring a team-high nine points in the first half. Her deep three from the top of the point cut the Raiders’ lead to 20-15 with just under two minutes remaining. NRHEG would finish the half down just 22-17 after going on a 15-5 run.
In the second half, The Raiders would extend the lead to seven after a string of nice passing while also capitalizing on poor shots from the Panthers.
If it was the Wagner twins in the first half, it all was Betsy Schoenrock in the deciding half. After scoring just four points in the first half, the junior exploded for 13 points and six blocks. In fact, Schoenrock scored seven of the Panthers first 12 points in the half, helping cut the lead to 32-29. On a Grace Johns’ trey, the game was even with just the second tie of the contest at 32-32.
After Wagner and Schoenrock guided the Panthers to a 15-6 run that gave them just their second lead of the game, the defense ramped up the pressure. The Panthers were able to force nine turnovers, but it was the play of their tall junior that made the difference. Peterson noted that the trap defense they switched to early was surprisingly successful.
“Inside a little bit, we switched it up; implemented our 1-3-1 trap which was nice to see. I was a little nervous heading in running that with girls so big, but it fun to see it worked on them,” she added.
The Raiders managed to string together a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 47-43 late in the contest, but that would be the closest the lead would get in the final minutes. Of the game’s final eight points between the two teams, all came from the free-throw line.
The Panthers will play in the 2017 Minnesota State Tournament, starting March 14.