M y apologies to Carney-Nadeau.
It’s been you all along. You are the team in Division 4.
I should have known.
You knew. And I should have too.
If every win in your undefeated regular season wasn’t enough.
If beating every opponent by 20 points or more wasn’t enough.
If a resounding win over one-loss Ewen-Trout Creek in the regional wasn’t enough.
Then this, this is finally enough.
Carney-Nadeau really is that team.
So forget people like me who thought it was Ewen-Trout Creek vs. the field. Forget everything but this: Carney-Nadeau is going to the state semifinals.
And the Wolves answered yet another test to do it when they defeated Rudyard 62-52 in a come-from-behind win on Monday.
“It’s amazing,” guard Haley Ernest said following the win. “I’ve never made it this far before in basketball. It feels awesome.”
But with just over three minutes to go in the third, it looked like Rudyard would be the team celebrating that awesome feeling associated with a trip to the state semis.
C-N (22-0) was up by five, but that margin didn’t seem to matter because 6-3 standout, Tessa Wagner had just picked up her fourth foul.
It was a situation the Wolves hadn’t been in many times before. Wagner is skilled at using her body to block shots without fouling. So seeing her on the bench isn’t a common occurrence for her team.
So uncommon in fact, that when Wagner was whistled for her fourth, she was shocked.
“I didn’t even know I had four fouls, but when I looked up at the scoreboard I thought, ‘Oh, wow. I might not be able to go back in,’ ” she said. “Then I got nervous.”
Coach Ken Linder called a timeout, and the Wolves went to a zone. Without Wagner, they give up a size advantage to Rudyard.
The momentum shifted quickly, and as the buzzer sounded on the third quarter, Rudyard’s Tristin Smith tied the game on a runner in traffic.
It was a 7-2 run for Rudyard (12-6), and the score read 44-44 going into the final period.
Finally, tied at 47 with 5:36 left in the contest, Linder opted to sub Wagner back in. He couldn’t wait any longer. Plus, the coach had faith that his junior center wouldn’t pick up her fifth.
“I just wanted us to hang in there until around six minutes,” he said. “And we did. Tessa is usually really good about fouls, so, I wasn’t afraid to put her back in with that much time.
“She is a real key in there. She does a good job of just walling up and being straight up.”
Linder wasn’t worried, and neither were the rest of the Wolves.
When Wagner subbed back in, Earnest put her arm around the junior and shared a few words before play started up again.
An outsider would assume the conversation centered around instructing Wagner not to foul. But instead, Earnest said she was telling Wagner to drive and draw a foul.
Rudyard’s Chesney Molina — who finished with a team-high 16 points — had four fouls. Earnest knew going at Molina would give the Wolves an advantage.
Wagner’s fouls never crossed Ernest’s mind. That’s how much faith C-N has in her.
“I told her (Molina) has fouls, and to try and get another on her because she is a big leader on that court and she is one of their biggest players,” Ernest said. “To get her out at a critical time would do some emotional damage.
“But was I worried about Tessa? No. I wasn’t worried at all. I knew she was going to go in there and stay where she needs to.”
Molina never did pick up that fifth foul, and despite the lift, Wagner gave the Wolves, they still found themselves trailing by five points with just under four minutes to go.
The Wolves battled back, and with 2:47 left on the clock, Taylor Kedsch launched a 3-pointer that tied the contest at 52.
It was her sixth 3 of the game.
Kedsch finished with a team-high 22 points.
“She has just been shooting it great,” Linder said. “I think she was 11 for 13 in the regional. She missed a few tonight, she rushed a couple of shots from the corner. I told her wait for a good one where you can get set. And she got set on that last one and drilled it.”
C-N then ran a set for Wagner at the high-post. When she cut up to the elbow, three Rudyard defenders went with her, and the Wolves were able to use her as a decoy, instead finding Shae Linder cutting backdoor for a 54-52 lead.
Kedsch’s 3 and Linder’s bucket were part of a 15-0 run that the Wolves went on the end the game.
Wagner, who finished with 18 points, then hit two free throws and the Wolves essentially coasted from there. But when the buzzer sounded, and the bench lept up in excitement, the players on the court remained stoic.
It wasn’t that they weren’t excited, but the Wolves were a little shocked at what they had just accomplished.
“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, we just won. We are going downstate,’ ” Ernest said. “Then when we got into the locker room, Ken told us how proud he was of us and we had a nice celebration.”
Going from down five to up 10 in the span of four minutes is something new for the undefeated Wolves. But according to Ernest, her team always finds an answer, no matter what kind of adversity it faces.
“We are just hard workers,” she said. “We work hard to get what we want.”
The Wolves wanted a trip downstate.
And they got it.
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