Panther state tourney hopes on the line today
Anyone who doesn't know her would never believe Micaela Noga is an 8th grader after watching her on Tuesday night.
Noga, the younger sister of all-state guard Sari Noga, played with no fear while leading Parkers Prairie to a 43-42 win over Hancock in the Section 6A-South finals on Tuesday night. Micaela drove the length of the court out of a timeout and was fouled with three seconds left. She stepped to the line in a 42-42 game and calmly hit the first of two free throws. That sent her team to the section final game against New York Mills tonight, Friday.
"I was confident with myself because I knew I just had to go through the motion," Micaela said. "Whether it's 10 minutes or eight seconds left, I just have to go up there and knock it down for my team."
That was the last in what was a night full of clutch shots by the Panthers. Both teams had an answer for almost every run. Hancock battled back from down seven midway through the second half and tied the game on a basket by Kendra Schmidgall with around four minutes left. On the Panthers' ensuing possession, Micaela drilled a three from the right wing that quieted the Hancock crowd.
Like they did all night, the Owls would answer. Bree Holleman made one of two free throws with 1:46 left to tie the game at 42.
Hancock then got the ball back and looked to be holding for the last shot. Jazmyn Dorn almost caused a turnover near half court coming out of a timeout. Hancock recovered the ball and put up a shot with about 12 seconds left. The Owls got the rebound but the ball was knocked away off of Holleman with eight seconds left.
That led to the heroics for Noga. Head coach John Noga drew up a play that called for Sari to inbound the ball and get it back on a give and go. The Owls responded by doubling her, leaving Micaela open to drive the length of the court. Once she drew the foul, her father and head coach had no doubt she would step to the line and convert.
"I got a picture of it this summer when she played AAU," he said. "Her coach drew up plays for her because he knew that she could do it. She hit a big shot at the end of the summer to win the game for her team. She got a lot of confidence from that. I knew that if she was ever in a pressure situation, that it wouldn't bother her."
Both Sari and Micaela finished with double figures for the Panthers. Madison Dorn joined them as all three finished with 12 points.
This game was more about defense for both teams. Hancock tried to take away the outside shot for Parkers Prairie by extending a zone three-quarter-court press. That kept the Panthers from getting up and down the court like they like to do.
Parkers responded with an energetic defensive effort itself. Sari Noga blanketed Holleman for most of the night, limiting her to seven points and keeping her from getting the ball a lot of times.
"That was a big part of my game," Sari said. "She is a very good player. She can shoot very well. She can do everything. So it was my job to take her out of her game and make her uncomfortable."
Schmidgall helped make up for the slow night by Holleman. The sophomore center kept the Owls in the game with her play down low. She finished with 19 points and six rebounds.
She kept the Panthers from pulling away in the second half. Schmidgall scored four straight to cut it to one at around the 12-minute mark.
The Panthers again responded with a big shot to regain some momentum. This time it was Jazmyn Dorn who drilled a three on the left wing. Madison Dorn followed with three of her own from the right wing on the next possession to stretch the lead back to seven points.
That was the theme of the night as the Panthers drilled a number of clutch shots when the Owls would rally. None of those were bigger than the free throw by the youngest Noga.
"My dad always says, 'you just have to play the way you play,' " she said. 'You're not an 8th-grade player, you are a senior-high level player and you have to play that way. You can't play like an 8th grader.' "
She has played well beyond her years all season long. Micaela and Madison Dorn have been the second and third scoring threats that have made this team so dangerous. After beating Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, Battle Lake and now Hancock, The Panthers are one game away from their ultimate goal.
They will take on top seeded New York Mills from the north. The Eagles are 24-2 after beating Norman County East for the subsection title. Tip is set for 7 p.m. at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
"We did it in volleyball and I have no doubt we can do it in basketball," Sari said of making the state tournament. "Now we're just another step closer to that. We just need to focus. We focused the whole game tonight. When they tied it up, we kept our composure. If we do that and play hard, just play Parkers Prairie basketball, we'll be fine."
PARKERS PRAIRIE 22 21 - 43
HANCOCK 15 27 - 42
PARKERS PRAIRIE LEADERS - Madison Dorn - 12 points, 2 rebounds; Micaela Noga - 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Jazmyn Dorn - 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists; Kaylee Dorn - 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Sari Noga - 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks; Ashley Weirsma - 1 rebound
PARKERS PRAIRIE 26 31 - 57
BATTLE LAKE 16 21 - 37
PARKERS PRAIRIE LEADERS - Madison Dorn - 7 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block; Micaela Noga - 3 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals; Jazmyn Dorn - 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Kaylee Dorn - 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Sari Noga - 32 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals, 1 block; Kendra Klimek - 1 rebound; Krista Alberts - 1 rebound; Weirsma - 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Tamara Schmidt - 4 points