Carney-Nadeau girls basketball

Girls Basketball

Carney-Nadeau Starts Strong, Building Toward Big Finish

By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half

March 5, 2021

CARNEY — This basketball season has been well worth the wait for the Carney-Nadeau girls as they’re off to an 11-0 start.

The Wolves continued to roll Tuesday night in a 67-22 win at Crystal Falls Forest Park.

C-N is led by 6-foot-3 junior center Tessa Wagner, who averages 22 points and 17 rebounds a game.

She collected 22 points, 15 boards and four blocked shots in Tuesday's contest, three days after scoring a career-high 27 points in a 64-24 victory over Munising.

"The fact that we're 11-0 is special," said coach Ken Linder. "Our ability to shut other teams down is also special.

“This is as good a team (as) I've been around. … It's hard to believe we're already more than halfway done."

Tuesday's triumph also enabled the Wolves to improve to 8-0 in the Skyline Central Conference.

"This is really awesome," senior point guard Haley Ernest said after Monday's 61-42 victory over Felch North Dickinson. "We're super happy with our season. We're a well-balanced team. When one is having an off night, another is ready to step up. It's hard to go an entire season without having an off night, especially with games packed in."

Due to the condensed season, the Wolves are playing or practicing 6-7 days a week.

"When we don't have a Saturday game, we take that day off," said Ernest. "Otherwise, we're playing or practicing every day. Sunday is game film day. After we're done with that, we have a shoot-around which is part of the easiest practice all week."

The Wolves, like other teams, had to endure numerous delays due to COVID-19.

"We're just happy to be playing,” Wagner said. “I actually love wearing the mask. I also have a little mouthpiece to keep from sucking it in."

Wagner says Coach Linder often reminds them to stay focused. The Wolves have been especially impressive defensively, as C-N is giving up only 28.6 points per game.

"He tells us not to look at the scoreboard and play the game," she added. "Our defense has definitely been a key, and I think we have good ball movement. We're definitely a fast team."

Sophomore forward Shae Linder also noted a variety of reasons why the Wolves are successful.

"We work together," she said. "We're like a machine out there. Our defensive intensity is a key, and our guards have good court awareness. Tessa is an amazing player. We know she's going to play hard overtime and she works for every rebound. A lot of people focus on her.

"Nobody is selfish on our team. We don't care who's putting up the points, just as long as somebody is putting them up. Our opponents have nothing to lose, and we have everything to lose. We're going to give it our all overtime. I think Haley is our (floor) leader. She brings our defense together and runs our offense."

Shae Linder said the Wolves decided to stay committed despite the extensions.

"We were looking forward to our first game," she added. "We agreed we were going to work hard every day (during the extensions). We love the game. All we could do was keep getting better and hope for the best. We were real excited when we found out we could start playing. We felt we had a pretty good chance to start 11-0.

The Wolves resume at home against Stephenson on Saturday.

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO: Carney-Nadeau's Tessa Wagner, here last season against Rock Mid Peninsula, is averaging 22 points and 17 rebounds per game. (Photo courtesy of the Escanaba Daily Press.)