Saturday afternoon's class AA championship between Braham and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva was hyped as the most intense of the title duels, with Braham senior guard Rebekah Dahlman getting another chance to upstage NRHEG junior guard Carlie Wagner.
The pair were the most prolific scorers in the state this season, with both among the three to pass 1,000 points for the year. Neither team had any player even close to the caliber of Dahlman and Wagner, effectively making the game a two-player showdown in front of the KSTC-45 cameras.
Dahlman entered the contest as the only girls player to score more than 5,000 career points, but drew the ire of some followers, especially after her commitment to Vanderbilt. Wagner was the sentimental favorite following her verbal to play college basketball at Minnesota.
Both teams met in the quarterfinal round last year, with New Richland crushing Braham. In the second meeting, Wagner and New Richland prevailed once more, squeaking a 60-59 victory at Target Center.
Plot twists were littered throughout the exciting match. Wagner threw the first metaphorical punch, scoring 19 points in the first half. Dahlman was held to two, but failed to make a field goal and had to sit for an extended period after picking up her third foul. However, New Richland (32-1) lacked the firepower outside of Wagner to fully capitalize, and a 27-15 halftime lead left the door open for Dahlman to send Braham (32-1) from the depths.
Dahlman answered the challenge, using her driving ability to maneuver through defenders for 30 points in the second half. Wagner one-upped that total, demonstrating intelligent shot selection and a deadly pull-up jumper.
Unfortunately for Braham, Dahlman fouled out with 37 seconds left in regulation, seemingly dooming the Bombers. Trailing 59-57, Kayla Nickles picked the ball away from Wagner, and finished with a layup to tie the contest.
On the next Panthers possession, Wagner was fouled by Jaclyn Hollenkamp, but only made the front end of her pair of free throws. Braham called timeout with 5.3 seconds on the clock.
The final play saw Wagner get revenge on Nickles, stealing her hope of pushing the ball and Braham's chance at victory, giving New Richland their first state tournament title in school history.
Wagner finished the game with 50 points and 12 rebounds. She made 21 of 43 field goals, and cut her turnovers from Friday's semifinal against Washburn (16) in half.
Wagner's 50 matched her season high, and the junior guard set five tournament records, including most points in the state tournament with 129. She shattered her own mark of 112, set last year.
Dahlman's high school career ended with 5,060 points, a number that could be seemingly unattainable. Her total is a 30 percent increase from Tayler Hill's previous record of 3,888, set in 2009. Dahlman also blasted the record for most points in a season, which she placed a year ago (1,094), finishing her senior year with 1,165.
Wagner could threaten that milestone next season. She recorded 1,074 points in her junior season, the third highest total in Minnesota high school history.
Nickles had 12 points and eight rebounds for Braham, and Dani Braund chipped in nine points and nine rebounds.