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Rilee Johnson capped off his senior season by being named the Most Valuable Player for the Park Rapids boys basketball team and earning Mid-State Conference honors.

Confidence sparked Panthers’ success

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     Matt Brandt expected the Park Rapids boys basketball team to produce a winning record this season.

     The Panthers lived up to those expectations by going 6-4 to finish third in Mid-State Conference play, earning the No. 4 seed in the north half and hosting a Section 8AA playoff game, and finishing with a 16-11 overall record. That was the Panthers’ first winning record since going 6-4 in conference play and 17-9 overall during the 2006-07 season.

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     “This group believed that they could compete with anyone,” said Brandt. “Overall, I was happy with how the season went and I think the kids were happy going 16-11.”

     The Panthers split their first six games with a season-opening win over Menahga (68-63), a loss to Crookston (71-67), wins over Staples-Motley (98-86) and Bagley (66-48), and losses to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (78-72) and Crosby-Ironton (65-58).

     A five-game winning streak followed as the Panthers defeated Roseau (70-58) and Pequot Lakes (69-60) before winning the Park Rapids Holiday Tournament with victories over Warroad (80-24) and Frazee (65-45). A 76-71 win over Wadena-Deer Creek gave the Panthers an 8-3 record.

     Perham ended that winning streak with an 83-29 victory, but the Panthers rebounded to defeat Staples-Motley (59-57) and Warroad (92-23) before dropping a 67-41 decision to Crosby-Ironton.

     Park Rapids closed the regular season by splitting the final 10 games.

     After a 70-35 win over Nevis, the Panthers were defeated by Detroit Lakes (66-61) before posting wins over Pequot Lakes (79-65) and Pine River-Backus (92-69).

     Following back-to-back losses to Detroit Lakes (83-53) and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (82-72), the Panthers closed the regular season with a 69-68 win over W-DC, a 70-45 loss to East Grand Forks, a 75-64 win over Sebeka and a 100-78 loss to Pelican Rapids.

     Going 15-10 gave the Panthers the No. 4 seed in the north for the section tournament. Park Rapids opened the playoffs with a 62-53 win over No. 5 Pequot Lakes before being ousted with a 58-50 loss to No. 1 Crosby-Ironton at Bemidji State University. That marked the second year in a row C-I eliminated the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs.

     “It was a very fun year. We accomplished a lot of the goals that we set. The big thing was we earned a home playoff game and we got back to BSU,” said Brandt. “The kids never gave up and they thought we had a chance to win any game we played. We were a few shots away from winning our second playoff game and playing for the subsection title.”

     Crosby-Ironton and Detroit Lakes shared the Mid-State Conference title with 9-1 records while Staples-Motley (4-6), Pequot Lakes (2-8) and W-DC (0-10) followed Park Rapids’ 6-4 mark.

     The Panthers went 14-1 against teams with losing records and 2-10 against teams with winning records. East Grand Forks won the Section 8AA title and finished with a 20-10 record. Crosby-Ironton was rated No. 3 in the final Class AA regular-season poll and ended the season with a 24-4 record. W-H-A (23-5), Crookston (20-7), Perham (20-8), Pelican Rapids (18-8), Detroit Lakes (18-9), Menahga (14-11) and Nevis (14-13) also had winning records this season. Finishing with losing records were Staples-Motley (12-16), Roseau (11-15), Pequot  Lakes (10-17), D-G-F (8-17), Bagley (8-19), Frazee (6-20), W-DC (6-21), Pine River-Backus (6-21), Warroad (3-22) and Sebeka (2-24).

     For the season, the Panthers averaged 67.2 points a game while allowing 63.4 points a night. As a team, Park Rapids shot 42 percent from the field and 61 percent at the free throw line while averaging 14.1 turnovers a game. The Panthers averaged 11.2 steals per game.

     Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Rilee Johnson, Tyler McCollum, Zach Jewison and Bryce Brovitch; juniors Jordan  McCollum, Derek Porozinski and Riley Massie; and sophomores Wyatt Derman and Remington Hagan.

     Johnson and the McCollums earned Mid-State Conference honors. Johnson played in nine conference games and averaged 15.7 points and 4.4 rebounds a game. Johnson made 56 of 102 field goals (54.9 percent) and 29 of 39 free throws (74.4 percent) while tallying 141 points, 40 rebounds, 28 assists and 19 steals. Jordan McCollum played in all 10 conference games and averaged 15.5 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. McCollum made 49 of 117 field goals (41.9 percent, including 16 for 54 on 3-pointers) and 41 of 60 free throws (68.3 percent) while compiling 155 points, 56 rebounds, 46 assists and 18 steals. Tyler McCollum played in the final seven conference games and averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. McCollum made 31 of 74 field goals (41.9 percent, including 15 of 37 3-pointers) and 11 of 23 free throws (47.8 percent) while tallying 88 points, 45 rebounds, 12 steals and 10 assists.

     Johnson was named the Panthers’ Most Valuable Player and received the Mr. Defense award after averaging 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds a game. In 26 games, Johnson shot 51 percent from the field (152 for 294) and 60 percent at the line (64 for 106) while scoring 369 points and tallying 129 rebounds, 74 assists and 64 steals.

     Tyler McCollum, who missed the first eight games recovering from a shoulder injury, finished third on the team in scoring at 14.0 points a game. McCollum made 96 of 211 field goals (including 46 for 115 on 3-pointers) for 45 percent and 28 of 50 free throws for 56 percent. McCollum also had 116 rebounds, 42 assists and 41 steals.

     Jordan McCollum led the Panthers in scoring at 15.1 points a night. McCollum played in all 27 games and shot 40 percent from the field (135 for 332, including 45 for 143 on 3-pointers) and 71 percent at the line (94 for 132). McCollum led the team with 112 assists and was second with 137 rebounds and 45 steals.

     Derman received the team’s Most Improved Player award after averaging 8.7 points a game. In 25 games, Derman shot 36 percent from the field (80 for 221, including 26 for 76 on 3-pointers) and 72 percent at the line (32 for 44). Derman also compiled 67 rebounds, 43 assists and 31 steals.

     Jewison played in 25 games and averaged 7.5 points and a team-leading 8.0 rebounds a game. Jewison shot 45 percent from the field (74 for 161) and 45 percent at the line (40 for 87) while finishing with 188 points, 200 rebounds, 30 steals and 29 assists.

     Porozinski played in 26 games and shot 48 percent from the field (57 for 118) and 62 percent at the line (42 for 67) with 156 points, 78 rebounds, 35 assists and 29 steals.

     Brovitch saw action in 19 games and averaged 2.7 points a night. Brovitch made 37 percent of his field goals (18 for 48) and 48 percent of his free throws (15 for 31) while compiling 51 points and 68 rebounds.

     Hagan averaged 2.7 points in 16 games, shooting 50 percent from the field (14 for 28) and 52 percent at the line (10 for 19). Hagan had 43 points, 29 assists, 16 steals and 13 rebounds.

     Massie played in 26 games and averaged 2.3 points a night. Massie shot 21 percent from the field (14 for 65) and 78 percent at the line (26 for 33) with 75 assists, 35 rebounds and 26 steals.

     Also seeing some varsity action were seniors C.J. Hess and Sam Ness, sophomore Damion Hanke and freshman Hunter Jewison. Hess had 15 points and 12 rebounds in 14 games, Ness had 8 points in 10 games, Hanke scored 13 points and had 18 rebounds in 10 games and Jewison had 20 points in four games.

     Despite graduating six players, Brandt is looking for the Panthers to once again produce a winning season and make a strong run in the playoffs.

     “We’re finally going in the right direction. The kids are putting the time in during the summer to get better and to get the program better and that’s only going to lead to more success in the future,” said Brandt. “Our seniors will be missed. They’ve placed some great expectations on the next group to be successful. We have to replace some kids who played big roles, but I believe the younger kids will step up and fill those roles. The expectations are going to be high next year. The kids are beginning to understand what it takes to win and how to win. If the kids get after it this summer, we could be as good if not better next year.”

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