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Rangers escape with overtime win

Park Rapids' Blake Johnson (left) looked to drive past Crosby-Ironton's Cayden Turk during Thursday night's game. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Defense provided the spark as the Park Rapids boys basketball team opened the season with two wins.

Defense almost sparked the Panthers to another win Thursday night at the Area High School gym.

Park Rapids trailed 31-26 with 1:57 to play before the defense forced three turnovers to ignite an 8-3 run that knotted the game at 34-34 at the end of regulation play.

Crosby-Ironton ended the extra session with a 9-0 run to prevail with a 43-36 Mid-State Conference overtime victory.

Both offenses struggled in the first half as two 3-pointers by Tristin Persons and a 3-pointer by Gabe Bagstad gave the Panthers a 10-4 lead with 9:48 to play. A jumper by Jason Haas and a layup by Persons extended Park Rapids' lead to 15-8 at the 2:59 mark before a layup by Kyle Skeim, a 3-pointer by Isaac Burley and a jumper by Jonathan Jacobson tied the game at 15-15 at the half.

A jumper and two free throws by Persons, a layup and jumper by Haas, and two free throws by Shawn Ohm gave the Panthers a 25-24 lead with 6:25 remaining before a 3-pointer by Burley, a layup by Jacobson and two free throws by Hurley gave Crosby-Ironton a 31-26 edge.

After two free throws by Persons, Park Rapids' full-court pressure defense forced two turnovers that led to four more free throws by Persons as the Panthers led 32-31 at the 1:02 mark. Cayden Turk connected on a 3-pointer as the Rangers led 34-32 with :29 showing before two more free throws by Persons tied the game at 34-34 with :17 left. Another C-I turnover ended regulation play.

Persons opened overtime with a layup to give the Panthers a 36-34 lead with 3:35 remaining, but Skeim scored off a rebound at the 3:23 mark and hit two free throws for a 38-36 lead at the 1:49 mark. A free throw by Jacobson with 1:21 left, two free throws by Burley with :48 showing and another basket off a rebound by Jacobson with :28 remaining sealed the win.

"I knew the score was going to be low. They like to really slow the game down and they were able to do that. I figured whatever team could get to 35 or 40 points would win," said Park Rapids head coach Matt Brandt. "I thought we were a little bit flat to come out of the gates. In overtime, we made some mental mistakes and that hurt us. We had many good opportunities to hit open shots, but we just could not find the bottom of the basket."

Persons led the Panthers with 22 points while Bagstad had three steals and two assists. Preston Renneberg hauled down six rebounds for the Panthers, who had three turnovers in overtime and shot only 18 percent (9 for 50, including 3-for-16 on 3-pointers) in the game. The loss dropped Park Rapids to 1-1 in conference play and 2-1 overall.

Jacobson's 14 points and 10 rebounds and Burley's 12 points led the Rangers, who won despite making only 4 of 17 3-pointers to improve to 1-1 in the conference and 2-1 overall.

"There were times where we found the energy and emotion to play at a high level, but we did not have enough of it the whole game. We were short on a lot of our shots and going 9 for 50 is not good enough to win against a tough C-I defense," said Brandt. "The kids battled the best they could all night and that is all I can ask them to do. They will continue to get better and our shots will start to fall once we get used to the physicality and get in the condition we need to be in."

CROSBY-IRONTON: Turk 2 0-0 6, Burley 3 4-4 12, Sagen 1 1-3 3, Jacobson 7 0-0 14, Skeim 3 2-2 8. Totals: 16 for 38 (FG), 7 for 9 (FT).

PARK RAPIDS: Reish 0 0-0 0, Renneberg 0 0-0 0, Ja. Haas 3 3-6 9, Bagstad 1 0-0 3, Persons 5 10-12 22, Johnson 0 0-2 0, Ohm 0 2-2 2. Totals: 9 for 50 (FG), 15 for 22 (FT).

Halftime: Park Rapids 15, C-I 15. End of regulation: Park Rapids 34, C-I 34. Three-pointers: Turk 2, Burley 2, Bagstad 1, Persons 2. Team fouls: C-I 16, Park Rapids 13. Fouled out: Jacobson. Rebounds: Park Rapids 22 (Renneberg 6, Reish 4, Ja. Haas 3, Bagstad 3, Johnson 2, Persons 2, Ohm 2). Assists: Park Rapids 3 (Bagstad 2, Ja. Haas 1). Steals: Park Rapids 8 (Bagstad 3, Ja. Haas 2, Persons 2, Ohm 1). Blocked shots: Park Rapids 1 (Ohm). Turnovers: Park Rapids 6.