Wolves wrapped up in semifinals by Fowler
GRAND RAPIDS — From the modestly sized gyms of the Upper Peninsula to the near 11,000 person capacity Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, the remarkable run from the Carney-Nadeau Wolves girls basketball team (22-1) came to an end Wednesday morning as the Fowler Eagles (15-4) beat the Wolves 61-37 in an MHSAA Division 4 state semifinal.
The first loss of the season ended up being the Wolves’ only loss.
“It meant a lot (to make it this far),” said Wolves coach Ken Linder. “We haven’t been this far in twenty years. So, it meant quite a bit.
“It was one of our goals to get here because we haven’t been here in so long, and we met that goal. So, yeah, it was pretty special.”
In the first quarter, the Wolves and Eagles traded the lead four times. Taylor Kedsch — who ended the game with 10 points — scored first for Carney to throw the first two-point punch in the battle. But, just 10 seconds later, Mia Riley evened things back up.
Haley Ernest put Carney back up with another double. Again, the Eagles answered. This time, it was a pair of shots — from Christi Spitzley and Emma Riley — that first tied the game then gave Fowler the lead 6-4.
Tessa Wagner — who had 21 total — netted her first points of the game just over three minutes into the quarter with a layup and one from the line to put the Wolves back up 7-6. It was the last lead Carney would have.
Following Wagner’s basket, Fowler turned up the defensive pressure — pressing and forcing turnovers.
At the end of the quarter, Fowler led 15-10. The foot never came off the gas pedal afterward as the Eagles outscored the Wolves 18-7, 16-11 and 12-9 in the final three quarters.
“We just really struggled with their pressure,” said coach Linder. “I thought we got off to an okay start … We hung in there in the beginning but a lot of uncharacteristic turnovers for us and a lot of unforced turnovers that we normally don’t make. I don’t know what happened, but that’s the way it went.”
All told, the Wolves had 31 turnovers compared to the Eagles’ 14.
Coach Linder also commended the Fowler squad for their effort.
“They have a very good team,” he said. “They shot the ball well from the outside. We just couldn’t get into our flow.”
On the Eagles side, coach Nathan George was happy with how his team played.
“I really appreciate the girls’ effort. We didn’t have a lot of time in terms of executing a game plan against their size,” said George. “With what we talked about in practice, I thought the girls’ execution was absolutely awesome. We had some defensive breakdowns but nothing that really hurt us at any point in the game.
“We’re a tough team to beat when we can spread the floor and make shots, and we did today. Just, overall, a great, great, team effort for us.”
The Eagles will play Friday in the Division 4 Championship Game against another team of Eagles from Bellaire. That game will be at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
After the game, seniors Haley Ernest and Taylor Kedsch commented on what it was like playing in the arena.
“It felt empty,” said Ernest. “Compared to home, where we have such small gyms, the same number of people feels like 10 times that because everyone is closer.”
Kedsch didn’t think the Wolves were intimidated by the size of the venue.
“I don’t think it affected our shooting,” Kedsch said. “I thought we shot well. We just didn’t get as many shots as we would have liked.”
Prior to the game, the Wolves knew the challenge that laid ahead with the Riley sisters, Emma and Mia. Mia had 23 points against the Wolves while Emma had 18.
“Going into the game, we expected that from (Mia),” Ernest said. “We knew her and (Emma) were going to be big leaders on the court. They drive, they can shoot, and they’re all-around great players.
“We were hoping we could just kind of stop it, but they just kept on going.”
From the uncertainty surrounding delays from November to February to the state semifinals, it has been quite the journey for the Wolves.
“Not knowing whether we were going to play or not, it was crazy,” said Kedsch. “Then we finally got to play, and we kept working just one game at a time. We got into tournaments, and we wanted to make it down here. We haven’t been down here in so long.”
Ernest held the same sentiment.
“At the beginning of the season, I knew our goal was to get out of districts. We really wanted to win that district,” she said. “As we kept winning, that goal kept expanding. Getting down here and being here was what we wanted all season. We worked really hard to get here, and it means so much to us to know that it meant something we could make something out of a weird season.”
Fowler 15 18 16 12 — 61
Carney-Nadeau 10 7 11 9 — 37
Fowler — Mia Riley 23, Emma Riley 18, Halfmann 11, Epkey 4, Spitzley 2; F: 13; FT: 10-18; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Halmann 3Mia Riley 2, Emma Riley 2.
Carney-Nadeau — Wagner 21, Kedsch 10, Ernest 4, Linder 2; F: 14; FT: 5-9; Fouled out: Ernest; 3-point field goals: Kedsch 2.