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Aitkin defeats Panthers in regular-season finale

Will Pickar (32) drove in for a layup during Park Rapids' Mid-State Conference game against Aitkin Friday night. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Aitkin took advantage of 21 fouls to close the Mid-State Conference schedule and regular season with a 66-59 win over the Park Rapids boys basketball team Friday night at the Area High School gym.

The Gobblers, who snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 72-35 win over Park Rapids at Aitkin on Feb. 2, made 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch and 21 of 29 free throws in the game to sweep the season series.

Carter Novak hit two free throws and layups by Blake Johnson and Will Pickar gave the Panthers a 7-3 lead with 15:10 to play in the first half before a 3-pointer and layup by Hunter Moe gave Aitkin a 13-7 advantage at the 12:11 mark.

A trio of 3-pointers by Gabe Bagstad, two layups by Jake Reish, a jumper by Tristin Persons and a basket off a rebound by Bagstad gave Park Rapids a 24-22 edge with 4:17 remaining in the first half before the Gobblers took the lead for good by closing out the half with a 10-0 run. Garrett Westerlund and Moe hit 3-pointers down the stretch as Aitkin carried a 32-24 lead into the break.

Layups by Johnson, Jason Haas and Bagstad kept the Panthers within 36-30 with 14:43 to play before Aitkin regained control with a 19-8 run. Kade Hopperstad and Westerlund hit 3-pointers, DJ Haasken converted a three-point play and the Gobblers hit seven free throws to claim a 55-38 lead with 5:23 showing.

The Panthers attempted a late run as three 3-pointers by Novak and a 3-pointer and two jumpers by Bagstad made it 61-55 with 1:09 remaining before Aitkin sealed the win by making five free throws.

Haasken scored 21 points, Moe scored 18 points and Westerlund scored 14 points for the Gobblers, who improved to 3-7 in the conference and 7-19 overall with their third win in a row.

Park Rapids, which lost for the third game in a row, was led by Bagstad's 25 points and Novak's 11 points. The loss dropped the Panthers to 3-7 in the conference and 12-12 overall.

Detroit Lakes and Pequot Lakes shared the conference title with 8-2 records while Crosby-Ironton and Staples-Motley both finished at 4-6.

AITKIN: Haasken 6 8-9 21, Westerlund 3 6-7 14, Kukowski 1 2-2 4, Moe 6 3-4 18, Hopperstad 1 2-2 5, Peterson 2 0-1 4, Curtiss 0 0-3 0. Totals: 19 (FG), 21 for 29 (FT).

PARK RAPIDS: Novak 3 2-2 11, Kosel 0 0-0 0, Ja. Haas 2 0-0 4, Johnson 2 1-2 5, Pickar 2 0-0 4, Reish 2 1-2 5, Je. Haas 0 0-0 0, Renneberg 1 1-2 3, Bagstad 9 2-2 25, Persons 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 (FG), 7 for 10 (FT).

Halftime: Aitkin 32, Park Rapids 24. Three-pointers: Haasken 1, Westerlund 2, Moe 3, Hopperstad 1, Novak 3, Bagstad 5. Team fouls: Aitkin 9, Park Rapids 21. Fouled out: Pickar.