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Girls basketball: Dreger joins 1,000 point club in Panthers’ ninth straight win

Senior Megan Dreger score her 1,000th career point when the Panthers defeated the Chargers in Parkers Prairie on Jan. 11. (Emily Myrin / Echo Press)1 / 4
Veronica Schwartz reaches to gather the ball offensively for the Panthers. Schwartz had 13 points when the Panthers defeated the Chargers, 59-27. (Emily Myrin / Echo Press)2 / 4
Senior Megan Dreger joined the 1,000 point club when the Chargers played on the Panthers' home court on Jan. 11. Dreger had a game-leading 17 points. (Emily Myrin / Echo Press)3 / 4
Freshman Faith Alberts takes a shot on the basket against the Chargers. Alberts had 16 points in the 59-27 victory for Parkers Prairie. (Emily Myrin / Echo Press)4 / 4

The Panthers girls basketball team jumped out to a 39-14 lead in the first half of Section 6, Class A play against Brandon-Evansville in Parkers Prairie on Thursday night.

With 10 minutes left in the game, senior Megan Dreger drove to the basket pushing the Panthers’ lead to 52-20 and her team erupted with applause on the sidelines. Dreger was surprised and confused until one of her teammates let her know she just entered the 1,000 point club with that layup.

“I had no idea. It was a total surprise for me,” Dreger said. “It’s an honor, especially because I have two coaches on the bench, Alicia Kruse and Sari Lind, that are in it and I get to join them.”

Dreger had a game-leading 17 points on the night followed by freshman Faith Alberts with 16 points and junior Veronica Schwartz with 13 points. Senior Megan Benzinger chipped in six, Sophomore Hali Moske had five and junior Abby Burquest had two for the final score of 59-27.

After dropping the season opener to West Central Area, the Panthers’ haven’t lost a game. Head coach John Noga and Dreger both attribute their success to the team’s pressure defense.

“Pretty much every game this year we kind of thrive on our pressure defense. It gives us life, it gives us energy,” Noga said. “We create turnovers which creates our offense. I’ve really enjoyed coaching that style. It works when you have the right personnel, which we do. We’re long and athletic.”

Some of the Panthers best teams of the last 10 years had offensive playmakers like Sari and Micaela Noga and Madison Dorn, but defense was still a staple in those teams' success. This year's group is doing the same thing. On average, the Panthers have held opponents to just 32.2 points per game. The Chargers came out strong in the second half, getting a quick four up on the board but then that Parkers Prairie defense kicked in and B-E was held to just 13 points in the second half.

“We are a very defensive minded team,” Dreger said. “Coach always tells us, ‘Offense will come and go. You can always play good defense.’ We know from last year that our defense carried us in a lot of games and that has carried into this year. We all love playing defense so that’s what sets us up.”

Like many teams that face the Panthers, the young Brandon Evansville team couldn’t stand up to the pressure and gave the ball away too many times, Chargers head coach Sam Lange said.

“It’s an inexperienced team versus an experienced team,” Lange said. “We’ve had games with 30 plus turnovers and I told them we’re never going to win a game no matter how talented we are in every other aspect of the game. You can’t win a game with over 30 turnovers. We need to learn from our mistakes and focus on continually getting better.”

The Chargers move to 6-6 overall and 4-2 in Little Eight Conference play with the loss. The Panthers moved to 9-1 and to 5-0 all alone atop the LEC before heading to Wheaton for a big Section 6, Class A matchup. The Warriors (7-1) ended the Panthers’ season last year in the subsection finals.

“Our section is probably one of the best sections in the state,” Noga said. “The key is to improve and get to that spot where we’re playing our best at tournament time.”

Dreger says they plan and hope to make it to state.

“I think we need to keep up our solid defensive and be patient,” Dreger said. “The more patient you are on offense, the better shots you get. If we can do that it’ll be the key to success.”

The Panthers will face the Warriors in Wheaton on Jan. 13 at 5 p.m.

PARKERS PRAIRIE - 39 20 - 59BRANDON-EVANSVILLE - 14 13 - 27SCORING - Parkers  Prairie - Megan Benzinger - 6; Megan Dreger - 17; Veronica Schwartz -13; Abby Burquest 2- ; Faith Alberts - 16; Hali Moske -  5; Brandon-Evansville - Emily Bukkila - 4; Kristin Kokett - 2; Sara Jacobson - 9; Haddy Zastrow - 5; Kerryn Lund - 2; Mikena Pattrin - 5