By Chad Courrier
---- — MINNEAPOLIS — There was still about six minutes remaining in the game, and Carlie Wagner looked up at the clock, finally seeing her point total.
Then, she smiled. That's it.
"I really don't worry about it," Wagner said. "It's exciting, but it's nothing that's personal to me."
If Wagner wasn't impressed with her 53-point performance, breaking her own state-tournament record, she was about the only one. The crowd was keeping track of Wagner's total, and even the Pequot Lakes' crowd joined in the standing ovation when she made two free throws to break the record.
Top-seeded NRHEG, the defending state champion, opened the second half with a 12-2 run and defeated Pequot Lakes 100-68 in the quarterfinals of the Class AA girls basketball tournament Wednesday at Mariucci Arena. The Panthers set a record for points in a state-tournament game, breaking the previous record of 88 by Eden Valley-Watkins in 1984.
But most of the postgame talk was about Wagner, who set six records when NRHEG won the state championship last season. She had 26 points by halftime, but she was more impressive in the second half, making 7 of 11 shots, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers to score 27 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
"She was a little cold in the first half," NRHEG coach John Schultz said. "The second half, she was a little more dominant. She had her (defender) on her heels so she could drive, and then she started popping 3s. When the score is close, that's when she has her best games."
The Panthers, who have a 59-game winning streak, led for most of the first half, though each time it looked like the margin might be comfortable, Pequot Lakes made a run. Hannah Lundberg's putback gave NRHEG the 29-17 lead, but Pequot Lakes was able to get back within 41-39 with two minutes left in the half.
However, Wagner had six of her 26 first-half points in the closing minutes as the Panthers led 50-41 at halftime. NRHEG allowed only 39.0 points per game this season, with 15 opponents that didn't reach 41 points in a game, including all three postseason games.
"I was concerned about our defense," Schultz said. "We didn't get out on their two shooters like we needed to. We had 50 points so our offense was OK, but we knew we had to play a little better defensively."
Wagner had eight points, including two 3-pointers, as the Panthers started the second half with a 12-2 run that made things more comfortable. Jade Schultz chipped in her fifth 3-pointer with four minutes to go to make it 96-64, and several teammates contributed to the record for total points and 13 3-pointers.
"We need Jade, Maddie (Wagner), Marnie (Wagner) to shoot well," coach Schultz said. "If teams are going to try to double on Carlie, we need our shooters. If you're going to play zone, you have to give something up."
Carlie Wagner also had six rebounds and seven assists. Schultz added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Maddie Wagner had 11 points and 10 rebounds
Carlie Wagner, who has scored 3,880 points in her career, now needs nine points to become the second-leading scorer in state history. If she scored 76 points, she can break her own tournament record for 3 games.
"Points don't matter to me," she said. "It's one game at a time. I only worry about the next opponent."
NRHEG (29-0) plays in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Williams Arena. The Panthers play Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, which defeated Minnehaha Academy 62-43 in the quarterfinals Wednesday.