Carlie Wagner scored a state tournament record 50 points Saturday, all but 10 of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s output. But it was her defense that secured the Panthers’ 60-59 victory over Braham in the Class 2A championship.
Wagner’s tall frame and outstretched arms stopped the Bombers’ final possession in the final seconds at midcourt of Target Center to end a game already being dubbed one of the best in girls’ basketball state history.
Just before that, she made a go-ahead free throw that provided the winning margin.
Wagner broke five state records in the game and tied another. Braham’s Rebekah Dahlman, a McDonald’s All-American and leading scorer in state girls’ basketball history, scored 30 of her 32 points in the second half to nearly rally her team to victory.
“You had two amazing athletes take it to the next level to make their teams successful,” NRHEG coach John Schultz said.
Wagner, who has committed to play for the Gophers, made her free throw and 50th point with 6.1 seconds left in regulation to give the Panthers the lead. She missed the second free throw but made sure Braham, which lost Dahlman’s services when she fouled out in the last minute, would get nowhere near the basket.
“After I missed that second free throw, I knew that I had to get it done on defense. I couldn’t let them get the ball up court,” Wagner, a junior guard, said. “I just did what I had to do.”
That meant breaking tournament records for most points in a game (50), most tournament points (129), most field-goal attempts in a game (43), most tournament field-goal attempts (110) and most field goals made (48). She tied the record for most field goals made in a game (21).
Wagner’s twin sisters, Maddie and Marnie, scored eight of NRHEG’s other 10 points. Paige Overgaard had 12 rebounds.
Said Dahlman, “We were this close. If we could just stop Carlie Wagner. She’s so good. I didn’t want to end my senior year being on the bench. I tried to take over as much as possible.”
Dahlman got into foul trouble in the first half and sat on the bench while scoring just two points. She fouled out with 37.4 seconds left in the game, forced to watch as Wagner closed out the game.
Dahlman said she forgot about her four fouls and regrettably grabbed Hannah Lundberg to stop NRHEG’s stalling tactic. As soon as the whistle blew, she realized what she had done. She left the court, tugging fitfully on her jersey, then went to the end of the bench and crouched down, her head bowed in disappointment.
“That changed the game when she left,” Wagner said.
Dahlman said she felt like she let her team down, but Kayla Nickles, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, wouldn’t let it ruin Braham’s night. Nickles stole the ball with 26 seconds left and tied it 59-59 with a layup.
That set up the dramatic finish.
“It’s a team thing. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I give half the credit to them,” Wagner said. “I just wanted to prove something to our fans and our town, that small towns can do it.”