KW rally comes up short in Class AA championship game

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By Faye Haugen

MINNEAPOLIS – It was the matchup they dreamed of for the Class AA championship trophy, but a poor shooting first half left the  Kenyon-Wanamingo girls basketball team wishing for a better ending.

The Knights had a 29-1 record coming into the Class AA tournament, with their only loss to top-seeded and top-ranked New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. With KW seeded second knew they had to win their first two games to get to the finals to get a chance to play NRHEG again. The Knights did just that by crushing both Redwood Valley and Esko.

The undefeated Panthers (31-0) got their closest game of the season when they beat KW 67-60 on January 9. Saturday’s 71-61 win over the Knights was their second closest contest of the season.

“The girls can take a lot of pride in that they only lost two games all season and both were to the two-time state champions,” said Coach Brent Lurken. “The girls played so hard and to the best of their abilities. We had a great season.”

The Knights stayed with the Panthers early trailing just 11-10 with 12:54 to play in the first half. But NRHEG outscored KW 16-8 the remainder of the half to open up a 37-19 lead. 

“We did a great job on Carlie Wagner in the first half. She had just 11 points. But the rest of her team stepped up and hit some big shots. I think they hit  six threes in the first half,” pointed out Coach Lurken. “If we had been down nine or ten points at the half instead of 18 points, it might have been an very interesting game.

“I don’t know what happened,” said senior Siri Sviggum. “We just got off to a very slow start. We had some good shots that just didn’t fall for us. We came into the game with confidence. Our goal was to play New Richland again, but I don’t know what happened.”

The Panthers opened up a 52-30 lead with 12:10 to play in the game. That is when the Knights dug in and started to claw their way back into the contest outscoring NRHEG 26-12 to make it an eight-point game with 2:01 to play.

NRHEG pulled their offense out to run time off the clock and KW was forced to foul. The Panthers were able to sink 6 of 12 free throws to pull out the 71-61 victory.

“If we would have had a couple of more minutes. . .,” said Sviggum of the outcome. “We just started our comeback a little too late.

“We dug too big a hole in the first half. We made some adjustments in the locker room for the second half. We knew we had to go man-to-man on defense so they wouldn’t just pass the ball around. I thought we played great defense, and we outscored them in the second half. The girls fought so hard in the second half and I was so proud of their effort.”

Megan Quam led the Knights with 22 points before fouling out with 45 seconds to play. Siri Sviggum had 11 and Audra Clark, 10. Carlie Wagner netted 36 points for NRHEG. She set new records for career scoring at State (371 points), for a single game (53) and for three games at State (130).

“She really can do anything she wants on the court,” said Sviggum of Wagner. “Our goal was to play them again. We were ranked second all season and we proved that we deserved that ranking. We had a great season.”

“Wagner is just a great player and it will be fun to see what she can do next season in the Big Ten,” said Lurken of Wagner who has signed with Minnesota to play basketball next season. “I thought Mara (Quam), Audra (Clark) and Meg (Clark) did as good a job as anyone in guarding Wagner.”

Kenyon-Wanamingo will graduate three four-year starters in Siri Sviggum, Audra Clark and Megan Clark along with Maddie Anfinson and Kailee Berquam. Coach Lurken will need to find scoring next season to replace Sviggum and Audra Clark who are both 1,000 point scorers.

“This is one of the best senior classes to come through Kenyon-Wanamingo in a long time. They have great attitudes, great leadership and great careers. We will miss them next season,” praised Coach Lurken.

But the cupboard is not bare for the Knights. KW will return their two tallest players in starters Megan Quam and Brittney Flom, along with their top three reserves in Mara Quam, Emily Ashland and Savannah Bleess.

“We will have good size coming back in Megan (Quam) and Brittney (Flom), and Mara (Quam), Emily (Ashland) and Savannah (Bleess) all saw playing time in a lot of pressure games during the season. We’ll see who steps up and what happens,” said Coach Lurken.

Kenyon-Wanamingo 61

NRHEG 71

KW - Audra Clark 10, Siri Sviggum 11,  Megan Quam  22, Meg Clark 8, Brittney Flom 8, Emily Ashland 2

NRHEG - Carlie Wagner 36, Hannah Lundberg 9, Maddie Wagner 9, Paige Overgaard 8, Jade Schultz 7, Marnie Wagner 7

Scoring by halves

NRHEG 37 34 = 71

Kenyon-Wanamingo 19 42 = 61

Free throws: KW - 21 of 29 for 72%; NR - 17 of 31 for 56%;  Field goals: KW - 18 of 55 for 33%; NR - 22 of 59 for 37%  Turnovers: KW - 18; NR - 11; Rebounds: KW - 43 (Audra Clark 11, Megan Quam 10); NR - 44; Three-pointers: KW -  Meg Clark (1), Siri Sviggum (1), Brittney Flom (2); NR - Maddie Wagner (2), Carlie Wagner (6), Jade Schultz (1), Marie Wagner (1)

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