Second-half surge: NRHEG's Marnie Wagner scores 15 to rally Panthers past Esko.
St. Paul – Having arguably the hottest hand on the NRHEG girls basketball team this postseason, the first half was nothing short of frustrating for senior guard Marnie Wagner.
In 16 minutes, she connected on just one of her seven attempts for two points.
Then, just like her previous two games, she found her stroke and started to dominate.
Scoring a game-high 13 points in the second half, Wagner and the Panthers (26-6) managed to rally from a 44-36 deficit to top the fifth-seeded Esko Eskimos (24-7) Thursday at Concordia University-St. Paul. The senior guard added nine of NRHEG’s final 13 points after the Panthers squandered a 23-21 halftime lead. She would also be a force on the defensive end in the deciding half, forcing five turnovers, to include generating four steals.
NRHEG came out of the half holding a slim 23-21 lead after Esko managed to score as time was running out in the first half despite a defensive slugfest. 16 total turnovers and in the first eight minutes, just 22 total points. While the Panthers claimed seven of those 16 turnovers, the one bright spot was the reemergence of Maddie Wagner. Missing her first two shots of the game, the senior guard started to heat up midway through the first half. Scoring a first-half high of seven points, Wagner went 3-of-5 from the field to include a trey that tied the game 7-7 midway through the first half.
“She didn’t shoot the ball extremely well yesterday; she was a little frustrated with it, but she came out shooting the ball really well tonight,” added Peterson.
Maddie Wagner finished the game with 14 points.
While it was a close game for much of the first half, the second half was that of a heavyweight title fight. The Panthers would attempt to extend the lead, and Esko fired right back, keeping the game no less than a mere basket difference.
That is, until the Eskimos managed to generate the first real run of the game.
Forcing a pair of turnovers, Esko's Ava Gonsorowski found Bridget Yellin down low for a pair of quick baskets. One of them having an and-one opportunity after NRHEG’s Betsy Schoenrock was called for a foul. It’s a rare occasion for Schoenrock to have competition down in the post, but that's exactly what occurred Thursday. Despite only recording a pair of baskets, Gonsorowski and Yellin were each able to see clean looks from the moment they caught the pass. Even when they configured an adjustment at the half to alleviate some of the pressure under the basket, Peterson noted that they stull struggled to execute it for much of the half.
“We struggled a little bit doing that adjustment, so she (Yellin) was able to score a couple easy buckets on us,” she added.
The Eskimos would mount an 11-3 run, building the largest lead of the game at six points. Facing elimination, the Panthers started to slowly mount a run of their own. After connecting on a pair of layups, Wagner hit a deep trey at the top of the arc, giving NRHEG its third lead of the half at 46-45.
It would also be the last.
Despite sending the Eskimos to the line on four-straight possessions, the Panthers allowed just three points in the final two minutes of the contest. Coach Peterson said that to be able to rebound from the opening round loss with the performance tonight is huge.
The Panthers will play Rochester Lourdes in the consolation championship game Friday at 2 p.m. on the campus of Concordia University-St. Paul.