Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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The Brandon-Evansville girls played just five players and had just three of them score but that was enough to edge Osakis in overtime last Thursday night. Heather Strese had another big night for the Chargers. Her three-point play on a basket and a free throw with 11 seconds in regulation forced overtime. She then scored all four of her team's points from the free throw line in the extra session as Brandon-Evansville held on for the 45-43 win. "I was happy for the kids that they could pull it out under those circumstances, injuries and just five playing," head coach Dick Simpson said.
The Alexandria Blizzard made the idea of taking third place in the Central Division an uphill battle after two slow starts ultimately resulted in two losses on its home ice against Coulee Region this past weekend. The Blizzard fell behind 4-0 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday. Alexandria made things close in 6-4, and 6-3 games but could never fully recover as it watched the Chill move seven points ahead in the division standings. The Blizzard came into the weekend with a shot at gaining sole possession of third place in the Central.
Parkers Prairie was challenged early last Friday night before showing why it is one of the top Class A teams in the state with a strong second half against Brandon-Evansville. A young Chargers team did everything it could to stick with the Panthers in the opening 18 minutes in Brandon. They came out firing behind seven early points from Tasmine Okerlund. Heather Strese added 13 in the opening half as Brandon-Evansville trailed by just four at the break. Parkers Prairie head coach John Noga asked his team to up its intensity on defense at halftime.
Not many teams could endure the loss of the state's all-time leading rebounder and the third-leading scorer and still have a team capable of making a run at a state title. Those are the kind of accomplishments Sari Noga took with her this past fall when she enrolled at the University of Minnesota after her record-setting career at Parkers Prairie. In her absence, the third-ranked Panthers have proven what most people already knew - that this team was much more than a one-person show on its way to a third-place finish at last year's state tournament.
The Ashby boys' basketball team used a strong second half to get first-year head coach Jeremy Knick his first win with a 62-46 victory in Osakis on Tuesday night. The Arrows trailed by two at the break after a Mitch Herzog three at the buzzer gave Osakis what it hoped would be some momentum heading into the half. Instead, the Arrows' defense held the Silverstreaks to just four field goals after the break to pull away in their season opener. "I was really proud of my guys tonight," Knick said.
The Central Division and three Alexandria Blizzard players came back from the North American Hockey League's Top Prospects tournament in Massachusetts with a championship earlier this week. The Blizzard's Paul LaDue, Tyler Swanson and Alex Altenbernd capped off the three-day event with a 2-1 record. They were a part of Team Weight, which finished off the tournament with a 7-2 win over Nardo Nagtzaam and Team Legwand. That gave Team Weight the title, based on a plus-eight goal differential tiebreaker after three teams finished with 2-1 records.
The Alexandria Blizzard has a great opportunity to climb up the Central Division standings on its home ice this weekend. The Blizzard welcome Coulee Region to the Runestone Community Center for a two game set, starting tonight at 7:30. The Chill comes into the weekend just three points ahead of Alexandria in the standings. A sweep by the Blizzard would put it in third place as it tries to reel in Owatonna and Bismarck atop the Central Division. "That's the ideal situation," head coach Doc DelCastillo said of the opportunity to win two over the Chill.
University of Minnesota football fans finally got the answer to who their next head coach would be when Jerry Kill was introduced at a press conference on Monday afternoon. I, like most Gopher fans, were left asking, "Who is Jerry Kill?" when I first heard of the hire. Now after learning more about him, he is clearly a man who has earned a shot to turn around this program. Kill's style is the antithesis of former coach Tim Brewster's. He promised nothing in terms of wins and losses at his introductory press conference.
Alexandria Blizzard defenseman Paul LaDue had a big decision to make prior to joining the organization this past summer. The former Grand Forks Central star out of North Dakota won a state title with the Knights as a junior last season. With nothing left to accomplish at the high school level, LaDue wrestled with the decision on whether to return for his senior year or take the next step in his hockey career. His high school teammate, Casey Purpur, was going through the same thing before both decided to join the North American Hockey League (NAHL) with the Blizzard.
The Alexandria Blizzard will be well represented at the North American Hockey League's Top Prospects Tournament in Walpole, Mass. from December 5-7. Forwards Nardo Nagtzaam and Alex Altenbernd, along with defensemen Paul LaDue and Tyler Swanson, will have an opportunity to impress a number of college and professional scouts at the event. The tournament is a three-day, round robin, featuring four teams comprised of the top committed and uncommitted college prospects in the NAHL. Blizzard head coach Doc DelCastillo will also be at the tournament as one of the head coaches for Team Weight.