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New Richland perfects its AA state title journey

Despite their opponent's best efforts to reduce the pace and possessions in the class AA state championship at Williams Arena, Kenyon-Wanamingo could not match the quickness of New Richland-H-E-G Saturday afternoon.

Kenyon-Wanamingo guard Savannah Bless (23) wrestles for control of the ball against New Richland players Maddie Wagner (1) and Hannah Lundberg (00)
Kenyon-Wanamingo guard Savannah Bless (23) wrestles for control of the ball against New Richland players Maddie Wagner (1) and Hannah Lundberg (00)Abe Booker
New Richland seniors Carlie Wagner, left, and Jade Schultz give an emotional post-game interview following their class AA state tournament title.
New Richland seniors Carlie Wagner, left, and Jade Schultz give an emotional post-game interview following their class AA state tournament title.Abe Booker

New Richland completed a perfect season with a 71-61 win, earning back-to-back state championships and giving seniors Jade Schultz and Carlie Wagner an emotional sendoff.

The Panthers (31-0) controlled the game from the opening tip, and the only inkling of a threat was the result of poor free throw shooting. Their 17-31 mark kept the Knights (31-2) in foul-and-chase mode through the closing seconds.

New Richland's rabid fan base organized a "cheer-out," waiting until their team reached 12 points to explode in the frenzy that state tournament audiences are accustomed to.

Wagner recorded 36 points and six assists in her final high school game, with freshman sister Maddie getting nine points and 10 rebounds.

Megan Quam led Kenyon-Wanamingo with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but top player Siri Sviggum struggled, making only 3 of 17 shots to finish with 11 points. Audra Clark added 10 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Wagner will return to Williams Arena next season as a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. While her scoring was prolific for the Panthers, the guard's lack of a mid-range shot at the tournament could complicate her transition. Known as a volume shooter, Wagner's 41.2 percent field goal accuracy for the tournament was more than enough to annihilate her state tournament opponents, but that mark would be more susceptible against higher-level competition in the Big Ten Conference.

Even if Wagner's shooting did not match expected targets for marksmanship, her high school accolades remain extraordinary. She scored 1,147 points in her senior season, and had one of her games not been canceled due to inclement weather, she likely would have usurped Rebekah Dahlman's single-season record of 1,165. Wagner's career point total was 3,957, the second-highest sum in Minnesota high school history. Wagner is also one of just two players to score 1,000 points or more in a season twice.

Schultz will join Wagner as a preferred walk-on next season. After scoring 17 points in the quarterfinal against Pequot Lakes, Schultz receded into obscurity, failing to score in the semifinal win over Howard Lake-Waverly-Winstead. However, her addition to the Gophers roster gives Wagner a comfortable option to set up deep outlet passes, allowing Wagner easy transition buckets.

New Richland's future features much potential thanks to the Wagner twins, Maddie and Marnie. With several seniors graduating, both figure to make the starting five next season. Their rebounding prowess is deceptive, considering their height of 5-foot-6, and Maddie averaged 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in the state tournament round.