Not a single New Prague player stands close to 6-feet. Thus, the Trojans' offense is feast or famine, dependent on shooting and turnovers.
“It’s a hard way to make a living, but that’s the straw we drew,” New Prague coach Ron Gunderson said.
An early seven-point deficit wasn’t enough to keep the No.8-ranked Trojans down, as they defeated Missota Conference rival and No. 4 seed Red Wing 65-45 at St. Paul Washington Tech High School on Tuesday in the Class 3A, Section 4 semifinals.
New Prague trailed 7-0 when freshman Maizie Deihl drained a 3-pointer to finally put New Prague on the board. Deihl recently returned to the lineup after a buckle fracture to her right arm. Deihl’s return adds another weapon from three-point land, contributing three treys all in the first half to New Prague’s total of seven.
“On the offensive end, she is the spark plug, she can really play,” Gunderson said.
A member of last year’s state tournament team, Deihl suffered a first-round loss to Red Wing, which eventually made it to the state championship against DeLaSalle. Because of section realignment, Red Wing and New Prague both found a new home in Section 4, where Deihl and the rest of the Trojans returned the favor, sending the Wingers packing.
Deihl, in her first year of high school, is learning her newfound role.
“We have great upperclassmen leadership, but I felt like I needed to step it up this year,” Deihl said.
Deihl’s 15 first half points were courtesy of a mass of forced turnovers on Red Wing’s end. Pressure and double teams kept the Wingers under duress, forcing steals and missed passes.
“We have to play that way, regardless of who we play, because we don’t have anyone big inside,” Gunderson said. “We need to put pressure on the perimeter, even if the kid gets by us we need a team rotation.”
New Prague advances to the Section 4 finals to face No. 3 Simley, an upset winner over No. 2 Hill-Murray.
“I’m really looking forward to playing them, and we’ll have to give them what we got and see what happens,” Deihl said.