Panthers look for up-tempo style to increase win total
Matt Brandt is counting on an up-tempo style of play to up the win total for the Park Rapids boys basketball team this season.
Last year, the Panthers averaged 46.4 points a game while allowing an average of 66.1 points a night. Park Rapids scored more than 50 points only nine times with a high of 66 while allowing the opposition to score more than 70 points 12 times. Park Rapids, which averaged 20 turnovers a game, was held to 40 points or less eight times and scored less than 30 points twice. The Panthers shot 36.5 percent from the field and 49.3 percent at the line. That led to a 1-9 record in Mid-State Conference play and a 3-22 overall record.
Entering this season, Brandt is counting on more offensive production with a more intense defense producing more fastbreak points.
"We had a good summer. A lot of kids put in a lot of time this summer," said Brandt. "We have a new offense that will spread the floor and take advantage of our quickness. We're going to open things up this year. We're going to play up-tempo and push the ball every opportunity we get."
Leading the Panthers are 12 players who saw varsity action last season: seniors Chris Goplerud, Kyle Goplerud, Cory Gartner, Mason Long, John Massie, Tanner Otterness and Andy Waller; juniors Austin Carlson, Zach Jewison, Rilee Johnson and Tyler McCollum; and sophomore Jordan McCollum.
Kyle Goplerud was named the Panthers' Most Valuable Player and earned all-conference honorable mention honors after leading the team by averaging 10.1 points a game. The 6-foot-2 forward made 109 of 257 shots and 31 of 57 free throws in scoring 252 points in 25 games. Goplerud, who scored in double figures 13 times with a high of 26 points, also had 116 rebounds, 31 assists and 29 steals.
Chris Goplerud also earned all-conference honorable mention honors after averaging 6.6 points a night. Goplerud made 67 of 149 shots and 28 of 51 free throws for 165 points in 25 games. Goplerud, a 6-2 forward, led the team with 125 rebounds, 60 steals and 48 assists.
Tyler McCollum earned all-conference honors after averaging 8.7 points a night and leading the team with 33 3-pointers. McCollum made 84 of 233 shots and 17 of 29 free throws for 218 points while adding 107 rebounds, 45 steals and 28 assists in 25 games. McCollum, a 6-3 guard, hit 20 points three times with a high of 23.
Waller, a 6-2 forward, also played in all 25 games last season and averaged 4.8 points a game. Waller hit 38 of 130 shots and 44 of 91 free throws in scoring 120 points. Waller also had 66 rebounds, 24 steals and 17 assists.
Jewison, a 6-2 center, played in the final 12 games and finished the season with 48 points and 41 rebounds while making 19 of 45 field goals and 10 of 26 free throws.
Long, a 5-7 guard, played in 22 games and had 21 points, 20 assists and 10 steals.
Otterness, a 5-11 guard, played in 18 games and had 25 points, 15 assists and 10 steals.
Johnson, a 6-3 forward, played in 15 games and had 12 points and 18 rebounds.
Gartner (a 6-1 guard), Carlson (a 5-10 guard) and Jordan McCollum (a 5-10 guard) saw limited varsity time last season.
The Panthers have to replace the numbers posted by last year's senior group of Ryan Peterson (32 points, 30 steals, 29 rebounds, 27 assists), Tyler Ridlon (97 points, 44 rebounds), Scott Wolff (102 points, 64 rebounds), Josh Crist (23 points, 18 rebounds) and Jordan Bergquist (24 points, 21 rebounds).
Starting the season on the junior varsity will be juniors Bryce Brovitch, C.J. Hess, Isaiah Hensel, Matt Reagan and Sam Ness; and sophomores Connor Farrell, Derek Porozinski, Isaac Overmyer, Jon Burlingame, Nicolas Lopez and Riley Massie. The C squad will feature freshmen Damion Hanke, Isaac Kosel, Joshua Weckwerth, Kodi Robbins, Remington Hagan, Scott Petersen, Tristan Breitweser and Wyatt Derman.
"We're going to pose match-up problems with our quickness and depth. I have a luxury that I'm comfortable playing nine kids knowing I won't lose a lot when I sub," said Brandt, who will be assisted by Josh Cook and Nic Lembcke. "We're going to be very competitive this year. Every game should be close and there are teams I feel we should dominate. If we play defense with the intensity we're capable of playing, no team should score over 60 points on us. These kids are hungry and they want to win."
Last season, the Panthers finished sixth in the conference standings and received the No. 6 seed in the north for the Section 8AA playoffs, losing to No. 3 Pequot Lakes in the first round. Brandt is counting on the Panthers to move up in the conference standings and contend for a home playoff game this winter.
"Our main goals are to be over .500 and have a home playoff game," said Brandt. "If we play at a high level every night, those goals are realistically within reach. These kids want to win and be successful. It should be a fun year."