Focusing on basics is Panthers' key for a successful season
Matt Brandt is counting on the Park Rapids boys basketball team to rely on sound, fundamental basketball to produce more victories this season.
Last season, the Panthers went 0-10 in Mid-State Conference play and 2-24 overall while averaging 42.2 points a night. Park Rapids gave up 69.4 points a game.
The Panthers were the No. 8 seed in the south for the Section 8AA playoffs and opened with a 75-58 win over No. 9 Frazee before being eliminated with a 64-27 loss to No. 1 Crosby-Ironton. C-I lost to New London-Spicer in the state Class AA championship game.
With nine players returning who saw varsity action last season, Brandt is looking for the Panthers to win more games and earn a higher seed for the section playoffs.
"The expectations are to get 10-plus wins this season," said Brandt. "We want to get a higher playoff seed than last year, which means we will have to play some good basketball. The boys are ready and excited to get the season rolling."
Leading the Panthers this fall will be the two returning starters: seniors Taylor Kimball and Christian Ridlon.
Kimball, a 5-foot-9 guard, finished second on the team in scoring with 147 points, including a season-high of 17. Ridlon, a 6-2 center, was third in scoring with 145 points, including a season-high of 22.
Also contributing on offense last season were 6-foot sophomore forward Chris Goplerud (43 points), 6-1 sophomore center Kyle Goplerud (38 points), 6-2 junior guard Tyler Ridlon (28 points), 6-1 senior forward Hays (12 points), 6-foot junior forward Ryan Peterson (10 points), 6-foot sophomore forward Cory Gartner (10 points) and 6-foot senior guard Ben Randall (7 points).
Looking to replace the numbers produced by last year's senior crew of Paul Dirks (312 points), Dillon Theis (102 points), Roth Mattson (92 points) and Mitch Long (80 points) will be juniors Jordan Bergquist (6-1 forward), Josh Crist (6-2 forward) and Scott Wolff (6-5 center). Sophomore Andy Waller could also see some varsity time.
Starting the season on Josh Cook's junior varsity squad will be senior Travis Deitchler and sophomores Mason Long, Nick Lindberry, Tanner Otterness, Blake Montzka, Nate Carlson, John Massie and foreign exchange student Herman Steing.
J.T. Luther's C squad will feature freshmen Justin Branson, Bryce Brovitch, Austin Carlson, CJ Hess, Zach Jewison, Rilee Johnson, Jared Kantonen, Tyler McCollum, Sam Ness and Matt Reagan.
"The boys have responded very well to the style of basketball we are going to be playing this season. We will be looking to keep pushing the basketball up the floor and create turnovers with full-court pressure. The boys know what is expected of them and they are the ones who have to deliver on the court," said Brandt. "If we continue to develop and get better at the little things, we will be a fun team to watch. The boys are going to have to play sound, fundamental basketball. We will have to limit our turnovers and play sound defense. If we can do that, we will have a successful season."