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Panthers expecting to produce more wins

John Schumacher is counting on a decrease in turnovers to produce an increase in victories for the Park Rapids girls basketball team this season.

Over the last two seasons, the Panthers averaged 20.2 turnovers a game in going 2-24 two years ago and turned the ball over an average of 21.1 times per game in going 2-21 last season.

Taking care of the ball will be crucial to the Panthers' success this season.

"We're going to have to handle the pressure and limit the number of unforced turnovers," said Schumacher. "A key for us to be successful will be taking care of the ball and making good decisions."

The Panthers have six key spots to fill with the graduation of Mindy Lawrence, Kayla Stursa, Danielle Dent, Ashley Christenson, Alyssa Klingenberg and Brittany Sayler. Lawrence earned Mid-State Conference honors after finishing second on the team with 226 points (9.8 per game) and 151 rebounds (6.9 per game). Dent was third in scoring with 132 points (5.7 per game), Stursa had 73 points and was third in rebounds with 87, Christenson scored 56 points and was fourth with 80 rebounds, Sayler scored 44 points and Klingenberg scored 39 points. Those six players accounted for 64 percent of the scoring and 62 percent of the rebounding totals from last season.

The Panthers return four players who saw extensive varsity action last season. That group features seniors Hannah Wolff (5-foot-9 forward) and Hailey Lundin (5-7 forward) and juniors Alyssa Carlson (5-4 guard) and Ashley Domino (5-9 forward). Wolff and Lundin will serve as captains.

Wolff was an all-conference honorable mention player the last two seasons and led the Panthers in scoring with 263 points (11.4 per game) and rebounds with 161 (7.3 per game) last season. Wolff shot 41.8 percent from the field (99 for 237) and 49.1 percent at the free throw line (56 for 114) in 23 starts.

Lundin also played in all 23 games, scoring 36 points and grabbing 47 rebounds. Lundin shot 25 percent from the field (11 for 44) and 40 percent at the line (10 for 25).

Carlson played in all 23 games and scored 27 points and had 13 rebounds. Carlson made 6 of 31 3-pointers and shot 18 percent from the field (9 for 50) and 60 percent at the line (3 for 5).

Domino, who is recovering from an ankle injury, saw action in 11 games and scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Domino shot 52.9 percent from the field (9 for 17) and 75 percent at the line (3 for 4).

Other players who return after seeing limited varsity action last season are juniors Sophie Shogren (5-4 guard), Anna Grimes (5-8 forward), Melissa Haas (5-8 forward) and Marisa Rittgers (5-6 guard) and sophomore Olivia Vaadeland (6-0 center). Junior Carson Lee Christenson (5-8 guard) returns after sitting out last season with a knee injury.

Rounding out the varsity and junior varsity rosters are junior Nathanya Jones (5-6 guard); sophomores Lydia Lutz (5-11 forward), Shelby Pierce (5-9 forward) and Taylor Yliniemi (5-6 forward); and freshmen Grace Bateman (5-5 forward) and Amber Booge (5-4 guard). Tina Ridlon will coach the JV.

Starting the season on the C squad will be freshmen Samantha Boyd, Cassidy Haggard, Caitlan Isaacson, Kaitlin Olson, Morgan Olson, Nicole Price, Lydia Schaum and Melissa VanDerStad. Nick Lembcke will coach the C squad.

With Wolff as the only returning starter, the Panthers will have players moving into new roles as Lundin, Carlson, Shogren, Vaadeland, Domino and Christenson will take over starting roles and play key roles off the bench. The other varsity players will also have to accept different roles this season as the Panthers attempt to end back-to-back 0-10 records in conference play and get a top-four seed for the Section 8AA playoffs.

"If these players grow into their spots, I think winning 12 or 13 games and hosting a section playoff game are realistic goals," said Schumacher. "The keys are for the girls to accept their roles and to play full games. We have to play good team defense, rebound better and stay out of foul trouble. We have the quickness to get up and down the floor, but we have to play disciplined and under control. We're going to put a product on the floor that's going to be fun to watch. By the end of the season, I see us causing concern for teams. I'm looking forward to a good season."