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Parkers Prairie senior Micaela Noga shoots over the defense of Browerville during a non-conference game for the Panthers on Monday night. Noga has returned from an injury this season to lead Parkers Prairie to an 8-6 record. Her next stop will be at the University of Minnesota-Crookston this fall. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)

Preparing for the next level

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Micaela Noga has been a mainstay in the varsity lineup at Parkers Prairie ever since 8th grade, but soon, the senior will move on and play basketball at the next level.

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Noga has signed on to play basketball at the University of Minnesota-Crookston next season with a full scholarship. She received other offers from schools around the country, but the coaching staff at Crookston was the main reason why Noga decided to attend school there and play basketball.

“I fell in love with the coach,” Micaela said of Golden Eagles head coach Mike Roysland. “He’s been watching me ever since 8th grade. He’s kind of kept an eye on me, and he really wanted me. It felt like home there and the girls are super nice.”

Noga said she received offers from Division I and Division II schools, but Crookston seemed like the best fit. The university is also close enough to Parkers Prairie so family and friends can make a trip to watch her games. That is one reason why her dad and Parkers Prairie girls basketball head coach John Noga is excited about the decision.

“It’s close for us to go and watch her play,” John said. “Some of the offers she had from other schools, East Coast stuff, we would never have got to see her play.”

While Micaela is finishing up her senior year of high school, her sister, Sari Noga, is wrapping up her fourth year playing college basketball at the University of Minnesota. The family makes the trip down to Minneapolis to watch the women’s basketball home games whenever possible, and they also enjoy watching away games on television.

Sari has told her sister that one of the most important things to remember is why she enjoys the game of basketball.

“She says, mainly you’ve just got to remember why you love basketball,” Micaela said. “It’s all for the fun of it. You have a job, but you also have to remember why you love the game and why you’re playing it.”

Although she is looking forward to starting her college career, Micaela and the rest of the Panthers are focused on achieving their goals for this season. Currently the team is 8-6 overall and 5-1 against Little Eight Conference opponents.

The rest of the Panthers had to play about five games without Micaela earlier this season while she was nursing a knee injury that she originally suffered playing volleyball last fall.

“I feel a lot better than I did,” Micaela said. “Getting back in there, I’m trying to get in the flow of the game again.”

She tweaked the knee four games into the season. With more than two months still left on the schedule, they decided rest was the best option. The time off also gave the other players in the Panthers’ lineup a chance to work on their consistency.

“I thought we also got better when she was gone,” John said. “All the girls had to step up a little bit and play a little better.”

With Micaela now back, the Panthers are focused on competing for the Little Eight championship and making a strong run in Section 5A.

The Panthers got a good look at Browerville on Monday, one of the favorites in the North Division of Section 5A. Browerville won the game 80-63, but the Panthers felt good about seeing a strong opponent before the tournament begins in March.

“It was a really good game for us,” Micaela said. “That is who we are probably going to play in the subsection championship.”

With a young team, the Panthers hope they can continue improving and be right up there with Browerville and Verndale as teams to beat in the section. About 10 games remain for Parkers Prairie in the regular season before the section playoffs begin.

“I definitely feel that we’re improving and getting better,” John said. “We look forward to hopefully playing [Browerville] in the subsection championship game.”

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Blaze Fugina
Blaze Fugina is a sports reporter at the Echo Press. Before working in Alexandria, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. He previously worked as the community editor of the Mound Laker for more than a year. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.
(320) 763-1230
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