Wagner leads Carney-Nadeau past E-TC

4/2/2021 | Game Recap | By Jason Juno (Daily Globe)
Gladstone

E wen-Trout Creek probably could have handled Tessa Wagner’s big night inside during Thursday night’s regional final. And it was a really big night — she scored 28 points and was unstoppable when she got a touch inside — but E-TC pretty much offset that with 22 points on six 3-pointers from All-UP Dream Team guard Elise Besonen.

Unfortunately for E-TC, the Wolves had Wagner and a perfect night from 3 — they were 7 of 7 — and that was simply too much for even the Panthers to handle as the Wolves won the battle of the two top-ranked teams in the Upper Peninsula 59-41.

“It was a perfect storm for us,” E-TC coach Jacky Besonenn said.

Carney-Nadeau bowed out in the regional semifinal last season, but Wagner and the rest of the team clearly improved from a year ago.

“We’re just a little bit better outside-shooting team this year; we’re hitting the 3s a little bit better than we did last year,” Carney-Nadeau coach Ken Linder said. “Tessa has grown mentally tough-wise and physically strong-wise a lot over the summer, so it has made quite a difference for us.”

It was a much-anticipated regional final matchup. Carney-Nadeau came in undefeated and was the No. 1 team in the final UP poll, and E-TC came in with one loss to Division 3 Hancock and were ranked second after holding the top spot most of the year.

They played like the top-two Division 4 teams in the UP, and Besonen and Wagner played like the top two players.

Kate Borseth’s 3 put E-TC up 3-2 and Besonen hit the next three from 3 to give the Panthers a 12-6 lead. A runner by Besonen put E-TC ahead 16-11 going into the second quarter.

The Panthers got some welcome offense from Brianna Schutz and Marissa Polkky as they each knocked down a shot to put the Panthers up 20-11. 

It was all Carney-Nadeau the rest of the first half. The Wolves scored 15 straight, with nine of them coming from Wagner and the other six on 3s by Taylor Kedsch, to take a 26-20 lead. Besonen stopped the run with a 3, but Kedsch drilled one more and it was 29-23 Wolves at the half.

Besonen hit a 3 at the end of the third and another early in the fourth to make it a seven-point game at 43-34. E-TC missed four times while getting stops on the other end. Kedsch dropped another 3 and Wagner scored again inside to make it 48-34. Abbie LeGault got E-TC on the board, but Kedsch was good again from the outside and the Panthers’ season soon ended.

Carney paid more attention to Besonen after her hot start and the Panthers didn’t have that big impactful second source of offense like the Wolves did.

“If (Elise) could have found an opening, I think she could have kept making them,” coach Besonen said. “When they were in man, we were able to break them down, and when they went into that zone, it was harder to find shots, and they were keeping a little better eye on Elise. So it was harder for us to get some shot attempts. But we didn’t shoot well, it was probably our worst shooting night of the year, 32% overall.”

Carney-Nadeau was a tough guard as the Wolves got so much production from the inside and outside. They picked a good night to shoot the lights out, but they also got some good looks because of the attention E-TC needed to give Wagner, who also had 17 rebounds and helped C-N outboard E-TC 33-14.

“Some of the rebounds, if we weren’t sorted out because we were trying to crash and get that board to help out Abbie (LeGault) with the big girl; if they got it, they found that 3,” Besonen said. “Getting back on D a couple times, if we were trying to double, they found their shooter.”

Wagner, of course, was good in her own right. The only way to stop the 6-3 junior was to deny her the ball and that wasn’t happening either.

“We do a really good job of moving it and hitting her on the move so she can just turn and get underneath her defender and score,” Linder said. “Once she gets the ball, it’s her footwork, her hands. She has really good hands, if you get the ball close to her, she’s pretty much gonna come up with it.”

Besonen’s fantastic five-year career came to a close at E-TC and she’ll be an automatic selection for the fifth time on the All-UP team.

“Great shooter, holy cow,” Linder said. “She was just blazing in that first quarter. I thought we might be in some trouble, but my girls responded.”

The change to a 1-2-2 zone was huge for the Wolves.

“We could keep her a little more outside and she couldn’t lose us in all those screens going through the middle,” he said. 

E-TC finished at 17-2. It would have been nice to keep it going even further, but coach Besonen appreciated this season for what it was. The Panthers had a great regular season, followed by a district championship and a thrilling regional semifinal win on a Besonen baseline jumper with a half-second left before the community lined M-28 to wish them luck as they left for the final Wednesday.

No tournament run is guaranteed. But this year, they weren’t even sure they’d have a season because of the virus restrictions.

“I’m just really proud of them,” Besonen said. “They had such an excellent year. They’ve been such a great group to have this year — easy to coach and they get along so well. So it was hard to see it end, but  I’m so happy they got to be here because I really was worried there wasn’t going to be a season.” 

Carney-Nadeau (21-0) plays Rudyard (12-5) in a state quarterfinal Monday night in Negaunee. Rudyard advanced on a virus forfeit from Mackinaw City.

“I believe we have a really good team, I believe in this team, I’ve been telling them that all year and I think we can still do some damage,” Lindor said. 

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