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No. 2 Wagner bullies past Sisseton in Class A semis, will play for first state title since 1998

Wagner will square off against No. 1 Hamlin at 7:45 p.m. Saturday for the Class A championship.

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Wagner's Emma Yost (24) goes up for a layup in front of Sisseton's Chloe Langager (44) during a Class A state girls basketball tournament semifinal on Friday, March 10, 2023, at the Watertown Civic Arena.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

WATERTOWN — Once Wagner put Sisseton at arm’s length, that’s where they remained.

Second-seeded Wagner led wire-to-wire, building an early 12-point cushion over Sisseton and never letting it dip below eight points thereafter in a 63-45 semifinal victory in the Class A state girls basketball tournament at the Watertown Civic Arena.

With the win, the Red Raiders secured their first state championship game appearance since winning the 1998 Class A title in 1998. Waiting for No. 2 Wagner (24-1) is No. 1 Hamlin (24-0), with tipoff at approximately 7:45 p.m. Saturday.

“This is an awesome feeling, but we have to get it done tomorrow,” said Wagner senior forward Emma Yost. “It’s going to be a battle.”

A 12-0 first-quarter run helped give Wagner a 16-4 advantage after eight minutes, as the Red Raiders maintained leads of 29-15 at halftime and 44-33 after three quarters.

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In holding down upset-minded Sisseton (21-3) — which knocked off No. 3 Sioux Falls Christian in the quarterfinal and played with a “wounded animal” level of ferocity in the eyes of Wagner coach Mike Koupal — the Red Raiders played their normal stingy brand of defense and controlled the game on the glass, particularly in the first half.

Across the first 16 minutes, Wagner accumulated a 23 to 15 rebounding edge, accounted for by a nine to one disparity in offensive rebounds. For the game, Wagner collected 39 rebounds to Sisseton’s 35, again the difference was a 10 to six edge on the offensive end.

“Our effort was amazing,” Yost said. “In our keys to the game, winning the rebounds was our No. 1 and I think we did a great job of that tonight.”

Another defining difference was the free throws, as both sides limited the opposing offense’s effectiveness from the field. Wagner was 18 of 50 (36%) from the field, but went 22 of 34 from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Sisseton shot 19 of 56 (33.9%) but was 4 of 7 at the line.

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Wagner's Ashlyn Koupal (24) attacks the basket in front of a Sisseton defender as another looks on during a Class A state girls basketball tournament semifinal on Friday, March 10, 2023, at the Watertown Civic Arena.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

“We were the aggressors tonight,” Koupal said. “I didn’t think they closed out very hard and our guards attacked the rim. That’s probably the most free throws we’ve shot maybe in five games combined.”

Ashlyn Koupal came off the bench and led all scorers with 27 points, including a 13 of 18 mark at the free-throw line, to go with six rebounds. Macy Koupal put up 17 points and nine rebounds, while Emma Yost recorded a double-double at 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Sisseton was led by Chloe Langager’s 12 points, as Krista Langager and Emmalee Nielsen each scored 10. Nielsen also had seven rebounds and a pair of assists and Krista Langager grabbed six rebounds.

The third-place game pits Sisseton (21-3) against No. 4 Red Cloud (21-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday with the championship to follow.

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Wagner's Macy Koupal (30) readies to shoot a baseline jump shot during a Class A state girls basketball tournament semifinal against Sisseton on Friday, March 10, 2023, at the Watertown Civic Arena.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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