Steal seals Panthers' 50-47 win
The combination of allowing easy baskets and not being able to score any easy baskets had the Park Rapids boys basketball team mired in a nine-game losing streak.
Picking up the intensity defensively helped the Panthers end that slide Tuesday night at the Area High School gym as Mitch Long's steal on an inbounds pass and layup at the buzzer sealed the Panthers' 50-47 victory over Nevis.
During their nine-game losing streak, the Panthers had allowed an average of 70.7 points a game while scoring 39.9 per night. Six of those losses were by more than 30 points and the Panthers were held to less than 40 points five times.
Avoiding another early deficit proved crucial Tuesday night as the Panthers' defense was the key in building a 23-17 lead at the half.
Kevin Vaadeland's five field goals and a jumper and 3-pointer by Paul Dirks led the Panthers. Dylan Stenberg and Hunter Schroeder hit 3-pointers for Nevis.
Park Rapids, which didn't trail in the second half, was able to hold off several rallies by the Tigers to secure the win
Layups by Dylan Walsh and Roth Mattson gave the Panthers a 33-25 lead with 10:04 to play before two layups and a pair of free throws by Nolan Toft and a layup by Stenberg crept the Tigers to within 34-33 with 7:31 left.
A jumper by Walsh and two free throws by Vaadeland pushed Park Rapids' lead to 39-33 with 6:00 remaining. The Panthers maintained a 45-41 lead with 3:17 showing as a layup by Long, two free throws by Vaadeland and a layup by Walsh offset two free throws by Jacques Lien, jumpers by Toft and Schroeder, and two free throws by Stenberg.
After a jumper by Toft was countered with two free throws by Dillon Theis, the Tigers tied the game at 47-47 on a layup by Lien with 1:17 remaining and two free throws by Stenberg with 52 seconds left.
The Panthers claimed a 48-47 lead on a free throw by Vaadeland with :08 showing. After Nevis called a time out with :04 remaining, Long intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass near midcourt and drove in for the game-clinching layup as time expired.
Vaadeland scored 17 points and Walsh added 10 points to lead the Panthers, who improved to 6-13 on the season.
Toft finished with 15 points and Stenberg added 13 points for Nevis, which was coming off a 65-61 overtime loss to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and fell to 11-9 on the year.
Fast start lifts W-DC to win
Wadena-Deer Creek built a 39-14 lead at the half and held the Panthers to 16 points in the second half in a 74-30 Mid-State Conference victory last Friday night at Wadena.
Donny Tabery (12), Jordan Reed (10) and Ryan Nelson (8) combined for 30 points in the first half in helping the Wolverines take charge.
Tabery finished with 24 points to surpass 1,000 points for his career and Reed added 17 points as W-DC improved to 3-4 in the conference.
Dirks scored 10 points for the Panthers, who fell to 0-8 in the conference.