Blooming on the court: Former Blossom stays connected with her hometown

Published 8:10 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Blooming Prairie grad Taylor Hagen has played a lot of basketball with her friend and fellow BP grad Madison Worke throughout her life. But things were a little different for Hagen as she took the court for the University of Northern Iowa women’s basketball team in Cedar Falls last Friday night.

Worke, Hagen’s former high school teammate in volleyball and basketball, was a spectator, along with the current BP girls basketball team.

Hagen was nervous.

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Seeing Worke in the stands brought back plenty of memories for Hagen as she took to the court.

“I can’t believe it’s gone this fast. It doesn’t seem like it was very long ago that we were playing fourth grade basketball,” Hagen said. “A lot of the memories are still there. I didn’t know (Madison) was going to be there. She surprised me. Seeing that support helped me calm down pretty quickly. It was awesome to know I had so many people there supporting me. It was cool for the younger girls to come and see the game. Coming from a small town, you don’t really get to experience what it’s like for Division I athletes, for them to see that and see someone they know play made it that much more exciting.”

Blooming Prairie grads Taylor Hagen and Madison Worke have grown up together on the basketball court. Hagen is finshing up her career on the hardwood with University of Northern Iowa this season and Worke recently cut short her run with the Winona State University women’s basketball team to focus on her studies. Photo Provided

The bond between Hagen and Worke, who is not playing basketball this year, has always been a strong one as they were basketball teammates almost as soon as they met each other in elementary school.

“We grew up with each other. I’m in Taylor’s home videos and she’s in mine,” Worke said. “We grew up as teammates and we kept growing and growing. We’re still really close. It’s cool because although we’re on different paths, it’s super fun to see her succeed.”

Hagen, who is in her senior season with the Panthers (7-4 overall), was able to shake off those nerves on Friday as she piled up 15 points on seven-of-eight shooting with six rebounds, four assists and two blocks in UNI’s 79-50 win over Omaha.

Hagen, a 6-foot, 1-inch center, is averaging 5.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season, which will be her last with the Panthers. She has played in every game for the Panthers over the last three seasons and she was also an MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award and Honor Roll honoree last year.

This will be Hagen’s final season for the Panthers and most likely her final season playing organized basketball.

“I’ve had a great run. I’m just trying to give it everything I’ve got this year,” Hagen said. “It’s kind of sad because I’ve been playing basketball my entire life, but I’ve had a good career and I’ve accomplished a lot.”

Worke is not playing basketball this year after she had played in 37 games at Winona State University over the past two years. She made the tough decision to focus on getting into dental school instead of playing with the Warriors this season, but that doesn’t mean she has forgotten about the sport that she loves.

“Unfortunately it came to the point where I had to decide between the game and the future. I still hold the game dear to my heart,” Worke said. “I’m so thankful that I played college athletics. I honed a lot of different skills that are valuable for the real world.”

Worke said playing college basketball has taught her many valuable lessons on communication, work ethic and time management.

Hagen is currently studying speech language pathology and she will likely finish her master’s degree next year. She wants to stay in the midwest after school and is looking to work with students who have speech disorder at a school, or work with speech rehab with patients at a hospital.

Blooming Prairie grads Taylor Hagen and Madison Worke pose with current members of the Blooming Prairie girls basketball team at the University of Northern Iowa last week. Photo Provided