Over the past three seasons, the Red Wing girls’ basketball team has gone a combined 72-14. It’s been four years since the Wingers didn’t eclipse 20 wins in a season and five years since their last below .500 record. The 2019-20 season marked the high point of that stretch as the Wingers broke through with a state playoff appearance.
For the first two years of the Wingers’ recent dominant run, Jesse Nelson was at the helm of the team. Nelson took a leave of absence last year, however, and then left the district for a position at South Washington County Schools this summer. The series of events meant Peter Johnson was given the interim head coach title last season, before being hired for the permanent role in September.
“With his staff, coach Johnson did an outstanding job of leading our girls in an interim role during the 2019-20 season,” Red Wing Activities Director Paul Hartmann said in a news release on Johnson’s hiring. “Coach Johnson is a transformational coach, striving to teach the game of basketball while incorporating valuable life lessons for all members of our program.”
One of the reasons for his success last year? Preparation.
“When our girls get a chance to prepare, we’re really good,” he said last year after winning the section title. “They are taking in and buying in with our game plans.”
During the run through the Section 1AAA playoffs, they defeated Albert Lea and Kasson-Mantorville by a combined 120-48. In fact, heading into their March 11 state playoff game, the last time the Wingers won a game by fewer than 10 points was Feb. 7. Before that, a loss to Rochester Mayo on Jan. 16. So, it was safe to say Red Wing was riding a hot streak heading into the state playoffs.
Garnering the No. 3 seed at state, Johnson said his first goal was to win the opening game and get a chance to play at Williams Arena.
But tWingers struggled to find a rhythm against Waconia in the first round of the playoffs and fell 52-45 in overtime. Dropping to the consolation round, Red Wing lost again the next day to Alexandria,. It wouldn’t have mattered much had they won though since the Minnesota State High School League announced the cancellation of the state playoffs, beginning the day after the Wingers' consolation round matchup.
Although the Wingers lost both games they played at state, it’s unfair to consider the season a disappointment. If anything, it was part of the natural progression of a program continuing to display its dominance. Each of the past five years the Wingers have won more games than the year before, and although this season will be shortened due to COVID-19, there’s little reason to doubt Red Wing’s chances of competing at a high level heading into the future.