The Parkers Prairie boys basketball team made a statement Wednesday night at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
The top-seeded Panthers (24-4) throttled the second-seeded Ortonville Trojans (21-3) 72-56 in the Section 6A-South championship game - clinching a spot in the section final on Friday night.
"It feels good. It's kind of a relief," Panthers senior guard Noah Koep said. "We knew if we wanted to play well it had to start on the defensive end. We know we can create our best offense when we play good defense."
The Panthers limited the amount of open shots the Trojans could take. From the beginning of the game, it was clear that Parkers Prairie was a step quicker.
"Conditioning is important for us but it really comes down to toughness," Koep said. "I thought we played really tough tonight on both ends of the floor. We had to. (Ortonville) has a good team."
The Trojans came into Wednesday night on a 10-game win streak. Their last loss was suffered in early February to Parkers Prairie, and their only other loss all season was against an 18-9 Morris Area team out of Class AA.
"We looked at each guy on that team and told our guys what they can and can't do against them," Parkers Prairie head coach Mike Felt said. "They executed the game plan well. I thought they played great defense and did what they had to do to win."
Wednesday night's win meant a little bit more to the Panthers than just a subsection championship. Ortonville was able to knock out Parkers Prairie the previous two seasons. Now the Panthers are one win away from the state tournament.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game no matter what," Felt said. "It was two tough teams running into each other. We had to play hard. I know how good this must feel for our guys, but we aren't done yet."
Parkers Prairie not only won with its defense, but was carried on the offensive end by a balanced scoring attack. Junior guard Alex Koep led all scorers with 23 points. Senior Noah Koep had 18 points, including five three-pointers. Senior Travis Yohnke and junior Josh Helling each hit double figures as well with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Panthers face another tough test in the section title game on Friday. The top seed in the North, the Henning Hornets, are 27-1 and are showing no signs of slowing down. They won the North Subsection over Waubun 82-52 on Wednesday.
The only loss for the Hornets this season came at the hands of the Panthers on Feb. 26. That one took overtime before Parkers Prairie won a 77-74 thriller.
"They are a very good team," Koep said. "We have to stay tough and work. Knocking down our shots and getting the ball to our bigs is what we've done all year. Making sure they don't get offensive rebounds is a key for us. The tougher team is going to win."
The Section 6A championship game tips off at 7 p.m. at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
ORTONVILLE 25 31 - 56
PARKERS PRAIRIE 39 33 - 72
PARKERS PRAIRIE SCORING- Alex Koep- 22, Noah Koep- 18, Travis Yohnke- 12, Josh Helling- 10, Preston Yohnke- 8, Andrew Warren- 2
ORTONVILLE SCORING- Leo Zepeda- 4, Zach Kuechenmeister- 9, Peter Treinen- 8, Mitchell Meyer- 13, Tyson Powell- 11, DaVonte- Edwards- 11