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CLASS AA STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL: NRHEG FAMILY TREE TRUMPS ESKO OUT OF STATE

ST. PAUL — Following their five-point loss to New London-Spicer in Wednesday's Class AA quarterfinals of the state girls basketball tournament, Esko senior Selena Shady kept their following game plan simple:
 “We want to win so we don’t have to go back to school on Friday,” she said with a grin. Long story short, it looks like the Eskomos will be headed back to their classrooms to finish the week. Despite a late lead, Esko was edged by New Richland-H-E-G 52-47 in the consolation semifinals Thursday night at the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University in St. Paul. The fifth-seeded Eskomos, which fell to NLS 48-43 Wednesday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, were behind again Thursday to the Panthers, but overcame a 23-21 halftime deficit and looked in control late when sophomore Macy Sunnarborg sank one of her two 3-pointers to extend their lead to 42-36 with 8:17 remaining.
 But it was NRHEG — short for the mouthful of towns named New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale and Geneva — responded with a 16-5 spurt to close it. The Panthers were propelled by their senior twin sister act of Marnie and Maddie Wagner, who scored 15 and 14 points for the victors. Six-foot-3 junior Betsy Shoenrock added 12 points, respectively. The Wagner family tree has been a customary name in the small communities near the Iowa border for quite some time. While both Marnie and Maddie are the current nucleus for NRHEG, their older sister, Carlie, is a standout at the University of Minnesota, now in her junior season.
 Before the Golden Gophers, Carlie Wagner paced the Panthers to back-to-back Class AA titles in 2013 and 2014 — featuring a 61-game winning streak — while she owns six state tournament records to her name, including most points in a single game, at 53. Her 3,982 career points — including a record 371 at the state tournament — rank second all-time in Minnesota annals. Safe to say, her little siblings learned from arguably the best. NRHEG (26-6) takes on Rochester Lourdes (22-10) — 82-68 winners over Minnehaha Academy Thursday — for the consolation title Friday at 2 p.m. at Concordia. Esko meanwhile, finished their 12th overall state appearance and third in the past four years without a win in the Twin Cities. Sophomore Bridget Yellin scored 13 points, followed by Shady's 11. The Eskomos closed the season with a record of 24-8.
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