Girls' basketball: State-ranked Parkers Prairie and Upsala clashed Monday night (with video)The Panther girls remain confident after dropping an overtime game against Upsala (w/video).
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Things came so easy for the Parkers Prairie girls’ basketball team for two and a half months.
The Panthers dominated opponents on their way to 23 straight wins to open the season. The ease with which those wins came was something that head coach John Noga admitted he didn’t really expect.
That’s why the last three games of the regular season were so important for the Panthers. Parkers Prairie played Sebeka, Hancock and Upsala over the course of seven days, three teams with a combined record of 66-9. Win or lose, it is exactly the kind of challenge he wanted his team to experience heading into the playoffs.
“I didn’t expect us to go through the regular season and have it as easy as it was,” Noga said. “You look at all of our games, a lot of these girls haven’t had to play a lot of minutes. They’re out with eight, nine minutes to go in the second half.”
Noga thought that showed in the closing minutes against Sebeka. The Panthers had a nine-point lead in the second half before letting it slip away in a 62-55 loss. They bounced back against Hancock to win 51-32 two nights later, setting up what was probably the toughest test of the season against Upsala this past Monday.
Both teams came into the game 24-1 and ranked in the top six in the Class A polls. They then went out and played like it in an eventual 82-78 win for Upsala in overtime. Even in a loss, the Panthers knew how important a game like this could be in obtaining their ultimate goal of making the state tournament.
“It was a great experience,” sophomore guard Micaela Noga said after putting in a team-high 25 points. “I’m so glad we got to go through this before the playoffs. I mean, we have not had a game like this the whole year. We played in Sebeka, but this game wasn’t like Sebeka. Tonight, we were all there. We were all in.”
Noga hit what she thought was the game winner in the final seconds of regulation. Her runner down the right side of the lane went off the backboard and in for a 71-69 lead with 3.2 seconds left.
That proved to be plenty of time for Upsala’s Aimee Pelzer. The junior guard received the inbounds near center court before driving into the lane and releasing a lay-up that got over the defense and fell at the buzzer.
“We didn’t come in and help,” John Noga said. “We didn’t make her kick the ball. The only thing she could have done there was go to the basket. We should have had two or three people there to help, so that was disappointing.”
Pelzer’s play stood out in a game filled with great guard play. The Cardinals’ leader was brilliant in the second half and into overtime. She finished with 27 points after the break and 38 for the game. Her six straight free throws in overtime gave her team a two-possession lead that it never relinquished.
Micaela Noga is used to being the guard who can have her way with the opposition. She finished with 18 in the second half herself and showed a lot of respect for Pelzer after the two went back and forth all night.
“She’s the best guard I’ve played against all year,” Noga said. “She knows how to use her body very well and where to put the ball when you’re guarding her tight. She’s definitely a very good player.”
The Cardinals needed all of Pelzer’s heroics to overcome a torrid shooting display by the Panthers in the second half. Parkers Prairie trailed by seven at the half, but its first five field goals after the break came from behind the three-point line.
Senior Tamara Schmidt couldn’t miss during that stretch. She hit three of those five triples and five in the game on her way to 21 points. Her jumper from the corner of the free throw line also tied the game at 69 apiece with a minute left in regulation.
“After I made the first one or two, I started thinking that I got to make them all because we need it,” Schmidt said. “After you make a couple, you’re just in it.”
Schmidt’s shooting had her team’s offense clicking on all cylinders. The Panthers scored 27 points within the first eight minutes after halftime after scoring 28 in the first half. For the most part, Parkers Prairie played exactly how it needs to play to make a deep run into the playoffs.
That’s what the Panthers were hoping for out of these last three games. They may have lost two of those, but it hasn’t affected the confidence this team has heading into the tournament.
“It’s better to learn this lesson now than it is from now on,” John Noga said. “The season’s going to be over if we lose. I feel really good with where we’re at. Our section, everybody’s going to be gunning for us. We know that, and hopefully we get where we want to go.”
UPSALA 35 36 11 – 82
PARKERS PRAIRIE 28 43 7 – 78
PARKERS PRAIRIE – Madison Dorn – 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block; Noga – 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals; Schmidt – 21 points, 11 rebounds; Kaylee Dorn – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals; Ally Taylor – 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists; Brenna Warren – 1 rebound
UPSALA – Sadie Welinski – 2; Pelzer – 38; Kimmy Mrozek – 13; Kaitlyn Wuebkers – 10; Tracy Herzog – 13; Donna Ripplinger – 5
PARKERS PRAIRIE 17 34 – 51
HANCOCK 10 22 – 32
PARKERS PRAIRIE – M. Dorn – 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 6 steals, 2 blocks; Noga – 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Schmidt – 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; K. Dorn – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; Taylor – 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals; Warren – 1 rebound, 1 steal; Amber Guenther – 1 rebound
HANCOCK – Karol Algarate – 2; Kendra Schmidgall – 20; Olivia Koehl – 2; Serandon Bigalke – 2; Courtney Greiner – 1