By Joe Tischler
Special to The Free Press
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s Carlie Wagner is well known for her scoring exploits. She tied her own state tournament record by scoring 48 points in Friday night’s Class AA semifinal win over Minneapolis Washburn.
On Saturday she outdid herself in the Class AA state championship game at Target Center by scoring 50 points. But it was her steal on the defensive end in the final seconds that preserved NRHEG’s first state championship with a thrilling 60-59 win over Braham.
The game was was a showdown between Wagner, who has verbally committed to the University of Minnesota, and Braham’s Rebekah Dahlman, the state’s all-time leading scorer with over 5,000 career points and a Vanderbilt University recruit.
The first half was one-sided though with Wagner outscoring Dahlman 19-2 and Dahlman picking up her third foul with 7:17 left. She was forced to sit out the remainder of the half.
NRHEG defeated Braham 75-45 in last year’s state quarterfinals and knew how to defend Dahlman and second leading scorer, Kayla Nickles.
"We knew defensively, we had to have a blanket on Dahlman and defend Nickles on the three," said NRHEG head coach John Schultz. "Those were the two things we had to worry about."
While Braham was struggling with the Panthers’ pressure defense, Wagner was flourishing on the offensive end. By game’s end she set or tied six state tournament records.
For the game she went 21 for 43 from the floor for 50 points, all records for field goals made (tie), attempted, and points scored in a state tournament game. She set whole tournament records in those same categories (48 for 110 for 129 points).
"I’m happy; it’s cool, but I don’t think it’s greatly upon myself," said Wagner. "It’s a team thing. I wouldn’t have done it without my teammates so I can’t just say it’s my record."
The Panthers led 27-15 at the break, but Braham and Dahlman came back in a hurry. Within the first four minutes, NRHEG’s halftime lead was cut to three (31-28) with Dahlman scoring 10 of her team’s first 13 points of the second half.
"We knew we had to stay up and couldn’t get down," said NRHEG senior Katie Cole. "They (Braham) got back in, but we still pulled it off so I’m happy."
A Dahlman lay-in gave Braham its only lead of the game at 39-37 with 9:45 remaining. When she committed her fourth foul with 7:38 left, NRHEG regained the lead and did not relinquish it the rest of the way.
Wagner was the reason why as she scored 31 of her team’s 33 second-half points. She converted on a three-point play and then swished a 3 from the top of the key as part of a 12-5 run to put the Panthers up seven with five minutes to go.
Braham crept its way back in the game again and when Nickles stripped Wagner of the ball at midcourt and laid it in with 26 seconds to go, the game was tied at 59.
Wagner drove and drew a foul on Jaclyn Hollenkamp with six seconds left. She made the first free throw but missed the second giving Braham a chance for the win.
Having to go full court, Braham inbounded the ball to Nickels, was forced to maneuver around Hannah Lundberg, attempted a pass, but was intercepted by Wagner who dribbled the ball down court as time expired.
NRHEG played this game without Jade Schultz. She led the team in rebounding, was second in steals, assists, and points. She dislocated her kneecap in the opening minutes of Friday night’s win.
Wagner and Paige Overgaard led the Panthers with 12 rebounds a piece on Saturday.
The Wagner-Dahlman showdown came to fruition in the second half as the two combined to score 61 of the game’s 77 second half points. Dahlman finished with 32 points.