New girls basketball coach sets high goals
Tina Ridlon has some lofty long-range goals as she takes over as head coach of the Park Rapids girls basketball team.
"Stepping in I have placed high expectations for the girls program. These girls need to start winning and playing for the playoffs. My long-term goal is to make it as far as we can get in the playoffs," said Ridlon, who coached youth basketball for six years and served as the girls assistant coach in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. "We have state on the brain. I know that sounds like a lofty goal for a team that has had one win in the past two years, but I believe we need to set our goals high."
With no seniors on a team that went 1-25 last season, Ridlon inherits a veteran group.
Returning from last year's team are seniors Katelyn Hilmanowski, Caitlan Isaacson, Heather Kniss, Tori Lauderbaugh, Kaitlin Olson, Morgan Olson and Nicole Price; juniors Charity Ridlon and Justine Rittgers; and sophomores Megan Grimes, Hope Johnson and Katie Klein.
Hilmanowski (5-foot-9 center), Lauderbaugh (5-8 center), Kaitlin Olson (5-10 center), Morgan Olson (5- forward), Price (5-8 forward), Ridlon (5-9 forward), Rittgers (5-6 forward) and Grimes (5-10 forward) return inside while Isaacson (5-8 guard), Kniss (5-4 guard), Johnson (5-4 guard) and Klein (5-5 guard) will handle the ball and run the offense.
Klein was a Mid-State Conference selection after leading the team in scoring with 185 points, including 14 3-pointers, and 54 steals. Klein also had 15 assists and 84 rebounds.
Ridlon, the team's Most Valuable Player, led the team with 32 assists and was second in scoring with 127 points and rebounds with 139. Ridlon also had 40 steals and 18 blocked shots.
Grimes led the Panthers in rebounds with 221 and blocked shots with 19 and was second with 45 steals and third with 116 points. Grimes also had 16 assists.
Lauderbaugh scored 65 points and had 77 rebounds, Rittgers had 57 points and 51 rebounds, Hilmanowski had 33 points and 37 rebounds, Morgan Olson had 19 points, and Price had 16 points and 31 rebounds.
Johnson scored 58 points and had 27 rebounds, 19 assists and 15 steals while Isaacson scored 9 points and had 13 rebounds.
Senior Cassidy Haggard (5-6 forward), sophomore Bria Wolff (5-9 forward) and freshman Gabby Johnson (5-7 center) could also see some varsity time this season.
The junior varsity and C squads will feature Wolff and Johnson; juniors Nakkita Buckanaga and Camryn Knott; sophomores Morgan Knott and Megan Sullivan; and freshmen Bailee Hoffard, Carly Waggoner, Maya Johnson, Megan Olson, Sydney Bynum, Kellsey Clark, Alyza Edevold, Paige Hill, Brynna Johnson, Jada Johnson and Riley Kimball.
Last season the Panthers averaged 29.8 points a game while allowing 69.5. Park Rapids also averaged 32 turnovers a game while forcing 15. Park Rapids shot 24 percent from the field and 55 percent at the free throw line. Ridlon is looking to vastly improve in those areas this season.
"We are looking at how we can turn this program around. We are placing a strong focus on fundamentals. We are placing our focus on team, not individual players, and all decisions will be made to benefit the team," said Ridlon. "We will move to a quicker style of basketball and we plan to utilize a full-court press along with a fast-break offense. We are working hard on playing basketball at full speed. We are striving for a high paced practice to match the level of intensity needed for every contest we play."
After inheriting a program that went 1-49 in conference play and 9-115 the last five years, Ridlon is looking for the Panthers to return to being contenders in the conference and section.
"The great aspect about my coaching team is we are all in this program for the girls. We want to see successes this year program wide. We all believe in pushing these girls to do their best by showing them how to use their athleticism on the basketball court and by pushing them to their next level of play," said Ridlon, who will be assisted by Joel Steffel, Craig Rittgers, Jeff Overmyer, Tonya Derman and Ray Herbel. "I feel we will be competitive this year. We have some bad habits to get rid of, yet with each game we play we will walk away from it having learned something. It is my goal to see team improvement and individual player improvement as the year progresses."