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Panthers take charge in second half to defeat LP-GE

Long Prairie-Grey Eagle's Emma Liebsch and Park Rapids' Rilee Michaelson went after a loose ball during Thursday night's Section 8AA playoff game. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Jeff Overmyer was a little worried when the Park Rapids girls basketball team faced a 30-14 deficit late in the first half of Thursday night's Section 8AA playoff opener against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.

The Park Rapids head coach felt a lot better after the Panthers went on a 20-1 run that sparked a 65-52 victory at the Area High School gym.

"It was a lot more interesting than I wanted it to be," said Overmyer. "I was a little concerned, but I knew our girls could play a lot better. They were hitting their shots and we weren't. We were getting good looks, but they just weren't going in."

LP-GE, the No. 6 seed in the South, used three baskets apiece by Rachel Midddendorf and Taylor Kingston to jump out to a 20-10 lead with 7:26 to play in the first half. Rilee Michaelson opened the game with a 3-pointer and added two layups to lead the Panthers in the early going.

Three-pointers by Kaitlin Welters, Kingston and Emma Liebsch gave the Thunder a 30-14 advantage with 4:08 remaining before the break.

That's when the Panthers gained the momentum.

Layups by Jaiden McCollum and Michaelson and a 3-pointer by Kaisa Coborn before the buzzer closed the gap to 31-22 at the half. The Panthers opened the second half with a 12-0 run as a jumper by Coborn, a layup off a steal by Michaelson, three straight baskets by McCollum, and another layup by Michaelson produced a 34-31 lead with 12:01 to play.

The Thunder used a three-point play by Hannah Middendorf to claim a 36-34 lead at the 11:31 mark, but Park Rapids responded with a 9-0 run as three inside baskets by Michaelson and a jumper by McCollum led to a 43-36 advantage with 7:08 remaining.

Park Rapids took control with a 14-2 run as four layups by Michaelson and a jumper and layup by Coborn made it 57-40 with 2:05 left. Coborn hit four free throws and a layup and Olivia McDonald scored inside to seal the win.

"We tweaked our offense a little bit and adjusted our full-court press in the second half. We spread their defense out and attacked the basket and we were able to wear them out," said Overmyer. "At halftime I asked the girls if they wanted this to be their last basketball game of the season. They didn't want it to be their last game."

Michaelson scored a game-high 31 points, Coborn added 17 points and McCollum finished with 10 points as the No. 3-seeded Panthers improved to 14-11.

Kingston scored 20 points and Rachel Middendorf added 11 points as LP-GE ended the season with an 11-14 record.

Park Rapids advances to play Roseau Saturday afternoon (March 3) at 4:15 at Concordia College in Moorhead. Roseau, the No. 2 seed in the North, eliminated No. 7 Warroad 84-16 Thursday night. Roseau, which defeated the Panthers 70-50 on Jan. 6, is the defending Section 8AA and state Class AA champion and is rated No. 4 in the latest state Class AA poll. The winner of that game returns to Concordia Tuesday night (March 6) at 6 for a section semifinal game.

LP-GE: H. Middendorf 2 5-7 9, Liebsch 2 0-0 5, Welters 1 0-1 3, R. Middendorf 4 3-6 11, Kingston 6 5-5 20, Cervantes 1 1-2 4. Totals: 16 (FG), 14 for 21 (FT).

PARK RAPIDS: Ka. Coborn 5 6-8 17, Ke. Coborn 0 0-0 0, P. Johnson 2 0-0 4, Michaelson 15 0-3 31, McCollum 5 0-2 10, Klemmer 0 0-0 0, Byer 0 0-1 0, McDonald 1 1-2 3. Totals: 28 (FG), 7 for 16 (FT).

Halftime: LP-GE 31, Park Rapids 22. Three-pointers: Liebsch 1, Welters 1, Kingston 3, Cervantes 1, Ka. Coborn 1, Michaelson 1. Team fouls: LP-GE 17, Park Rapids 21. Fouled out: P. Johnson, Klemmer.