Matt Brandt said one of the keys to success for the Park Rapids boys basketball team this season would be the ability to create offense from defense.
That's what the Panthers did down the stretch Tuesday night in a 48-44 victory over Detroit Lakes in the Mid-State Conference opener for both teams at the Area High School gym.
Tristan Persons scored on three straight fastbreak layups in the final 2:06 to help the Panthers snap a 20-game losing streak to the Lakers and a 16-game losing streak in conference games. The win was the first for the Panthers over Detroit Lakes since sweeping the season series in 2007 and was the first conference win since a 58-56 victory over Wadena-Deer Creek in February of 2015.
"This win was a big confidence booster for the kids. It really made them believe that they can compete with everyone if they work hard and do their jobs," said Brandt. "This was a big step in getting our program back to where it needs to be."
Both offenses struggled in the early going as the Lakers led 12-7 with 6:43 to play in the first half. A layup by Persons and a layup off a steal by Gabe Bagstad accounted for the Panthers' two field goals while a layup by Ben Stearns, a 3-pointer by Tate Kerzman and a basket off a rebound by Logan Pratt led the Lakers, who also made 5 of 10 free throws in the early going.
The Panthers responded with a 13-0 run to take the lead. Bagstad and Blake Johnson turned steals into layups, Bagstad hit three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt, and Persons scored on a layup as Park Rapids claimed a 20-12 lead with 2:29 remaining before the break.
Park Rapids, which led 21-17 at the half, used a 3-pointer by Bagstad for a 24-17 advantage before the Lakers responded with a pair of 3-pointers by Jacob Bettcher and a 3-pointer by Gabe Hanninen to tie the game at 28-28 with 11:46 remaining.
Two jumpers by Shawn Ohm and a jumper by Bagstad sparked a 9-1 run as the Panthers built a 37-29 advantage with 6:48 to play.
Detroit Lakes pulled to within 39-35 with 3:07 remaining before Persons scored on three straight layups to give the Panthers a 45-35 lead with 41 seconds left. That lead held up despite a 3-pointer by Reed Mace and two 3-pointers by Connor Froke down the stretch.
Bagstad finished with 21 points and Persons added 13 points to lead the Panthers, who turned the ball over only 11 times. Jason Haas and Bagstad had five steals each while Renneberg pulled down five rebounds.
Bettcher (9) and Mace (7) combined for 16 points to lead the Lakers in their season debut.
"Our defense was very tough. We played tough defense and forced tough shots. The kids were intense and DL struggled to get some good looks. I was not happy with the way we boxed out in the first half, but we made some adjustments and found the guys in the second half and improved in our boxing out to help us finish the plays on defense," said Brandt. "The kids understand that they need to stay humble after a big win because we cannot think we are on top of the world when we still have 22 tough games left. I'm proud of the kids in what they have accomplished so far this season, but they are still wanting more."
DETROIT LAKES: Bettcher 3 1-2 9, Froke 2 0-0 6, Mace 1 4-9 7, Hanninen 1 2--4 5, J. Kerzman 1 0-0 2, Spry 0 1-2 1, Haire 0 0-2 0, Stearns 1 0-0 2, T. Kerzman 2 1-2 6, Pratt 2 2-4 6. Totals: 13 (FG), 11 for 25 (FT).
PARK RAPIDS: Reish 1 2-5 4, Rennberg 1 0-0 2, Ja. Haas 0 1-2 1, Bagstad 5 10-12 21, Persons 5 3-6 13, Kosel 0 0-0 0, Je. Haas 0 1-2 1, Johnson 1 0-0 2, Ohm 2 0-0 4. Totals: 15 for 44 (FG), 17 for 27 (FT).
Halftime: Park Rapids 21, Detroit Lakes 17. Three-pointers: Bettcher 2, Froke 2, Mace 1, Hanninen 1, T. Kerzman 1, Bagstad 1. Team fouls: Detroit Lakes 24, Park Rapids 22. Rebounds: Park Rapids 17 (Renneberg 5, Reish 4, Persons 2, Ohm 2, Je. Haas 1, Ja. Haas 1, Bagstad 1, Johnson 1). Steals: Park Rapids 16 (Ja. Haas 5, Bagstad 5, Reish 2, Persons 2, Kosel 1, Johnson 1). Blocked shots: Park Rapids 6 (Reish 2, Renneberg 1, Bagstad 1, Johnson 1, Ohm 1). Turnovers: Park Rapids 11.