Cold shooting dooms Trojans at state tourney

New Prague’s Lexi Ruehling drives to the basket during the team’s loss to Red Wing in the state quarterfinals. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

The New Prague Trojans were counting on the addage that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.

Unfortunately for the Trojans, the addage didn’t hold true Wednesday, March 13, in the quarterfinals of the State Class AAAgirls basketball tournament. Missota Conference rival Red Wing, behind 32 points from Tesha Buck, defeated New Prague 63-45 to end the Trojan’s season. New Prague ended their season with a 22-7 record.

The Trojans grabbed an early lead, but cold shooting... from the field and from the free throw line... doomed the Trojans. New Prague led 11-7 after a jumper by Maizie Deihl with 10:54 remaining, then went scoreless for the next six minutes.

Red wing outscored the Trojans 116-4 over the final 10 minutes of the first half to take a 25-15 lead. Buck had 19 of the Wingers’ 25 firsthalf points.

Red wing continued their assault on the Trojans in the early going of the second half, as Buck scored three quick baskets to give the wingers a 31-17 lead. Coach Ron Gunderson called a timeout at that point and the Trojan defense stiffened a bit. Buck had just one more from the field the rest of the way - a three-pointer - but also hit three free throws to finish with 31 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

Offensively the Trojans had trouble shooting, hitting just 28.6 percent for the game. Deihl led the Trojans in scoring with 14 points, followed by Annie Dittberner with 11 and Lexi Ruehling with 10. Others scoring were Steph Hanson with 8 and Ella Grote with 2.

Red Wing had a slight edge in rebounds, 37-33, however those totals were skewed with 12 offensive rebounds for the Trojans, due to their poor shooting. Grote had nine rebounds for the Trojans and and Ruehling seven. Dittberner had three assists and Hanson had four steals for the Trojans, who forced 12 turnovers for the game.

“We just couldn’t score today,” Coach Ron Gunderson said. “We had a tough time finding the basket, but it was a great run with this group. People really didn’t expect us to challenge for the section title after losing some key players, but this group worked very hard all summer and all season. It’s been a special group to work with.”

This was the Trojans’ eighth trip to state and fifth in the last eight years. The Trojans went from Section 1AAA in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 and from Section 2AAA this year. This year’s section tournament had three teams rated in the top 10. It could be even tougher next year when the Trojans move to Section 4AAA. That section will include two other teams in this year’s state tournament field - Hill-Murray and Red Wing - well as Simley, which was ranked most of this season. TH