Girls basketball: Panthers leave no doubt in snapping B-E’s winning streak
On paper, Friday night’s Little Eight Conference and Section 6A matchup between Parkers Prairie and Brandon-Evansville had the makings of a tight game.
The Chargers were 9-1 and on a nine-game winning streak entering the night. The Panthers were perfect at 10-0 and beating teams by almost 34 points per night. In the end, Parkers Prairie proved again that this is the team to beat right now in the LEC and possibly the entire South half of the section after a 62-34 win in Brandon.
“More than anything, they hit shots,” B-E head coach Sam Lange said. “They shot really well, and we didn’t shoot at all. I think we shot under 30 percent overall, and you’re just not going to win a lot of games with that. We’ve won some like that just because we play really good defense, but we’ve got to figure some things out offensively so we can stay with the pace of someone like Parkers.”
The Chargers were ready to go at the start. They got an early three from Haddey Zastrow and built a 14-8 lead. That’s when the Panthers went to work. They closed the half on a 16-0 run over the final 10-plus minutes to take a 24-14 lead into the break.
“I told the girls that whenever you come over to Brandon or Evansville, they’re going to be ready to play,” Parkers Prairie head coach John Noga said. “They’re always well coached, and they’re competitive kids who are good in multiple sports. They came out and played well, but we never seem to panic. We believe in ourselves, I believe in the girls, and defensively, we just dig in. Then our offense came around.”
The Panthers have a couple consistent scorers in sophomore forward Faith Alberts and senior guard Veronica Schwartz, but they are much more than just those two players.
Junior Hali Moske hit two big threes to jumpstart the Panthers’ run in the first half. She finished with 10 points, while junior guard Emily Benzinger added 11, and sophomore Megan Blake had seven.
“We’re really confident (in each other),” Alberts said. “Everyone has had good games throughout the year. It hasn’t always been just one person scoring. These past couple games, we’ve really relied on each other.”
In the second half, Alberts got going. She battled some early foul trouble but finished with a game-high 24 points. Alberts has played varsity since 8th grade, and has taken another step this season to establish herself as one of the better players in the area.
“I think overall, it’s the basketball knowledge,” Noga said of Alberts. “Knowing when she can do certain things. When to get to the rim, when to take an outside shot and when to see a teammate. She’s getting better at that. Those are the keys for her this year.”
The Chargers could not match the offensive depth of the Panthers on Friday. Junior guard Kristin Kokett had a team-high eight points after knocking down a couple threes. The Chargers were also without senior guard Sara Jacobson, who injured her shoulder against Ashby on Jan. 8 and is expected to be out a couple weeks.
“I told them all that matters is we come back on Monday and work to get better,” Lange said. “The score doesn’t indicate the type of separation between us and Parkers, I don’t think. We’re down a couple people, too. We have to take it and learn from it, but not make (the loss) too big of a deal.”
The Panthers are rolling right now, with their closest game coming in a 67-58 win over a 9-4 West Central Area team on Dec. 11. They are following a somewhat similar script to last season when they went 25-3.
Parkers Prairie has the same nucleus back from that team and is hungry to put together another special season, but with a different ending. The Panthers beat Underwood twice during the regular season last year, but lost to the Rockets 51-47 in the third round of the playoffs.
“We do look at the games we’re playing right now, but in the long run, we really are looking to make it far in the playoffs,” Alberts said. “It would be amazing to make it to the state tournament. It’s been a dream of ours for the last three years now.”
Noga believes they are a different team after having gone through last year’s run. This group has four playoff wins in the last two seasons now. They have been through the pressure moments of deep postseason runs, and Noga sees more of a calmness about them than he did a year ago. He hopes that helps carry them even deeper this season.
“We talked about it at the beginning, that that’s where we want to be,” Noga said of making the 6A title game. “They also realize that you have to take it one step at a time. That’s their goal is to make it to the section final and see what happens.”
BRANDON-EVANSVILLE 14 20 - 34
PARKERS PRAIRIE 24 38 - 62
B-E SCORING - Kristin Kokett - 8; Bailey Schaefer - 2; Haddey Zastrow - 4; Madalynn Otto - 6; Madison Quinn - 7; Brittany Korkowski - 2; Mikenna Pattrin - 5
PARKERS PRAIRIE SCORING - Megan Blake - 7; Veronica Schwartz - 6; Abby Burquest - 4; Faith Alberts - 24; Hali Moske - 10; Emily Benzinger - 11