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Panthers open season with a win

Park Rapids' Carson Lee Christenson (left) and Menahga's Lindsey White (10) battled a rebound during Tuesday night's game at the Area High School gym. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)

John Schumacher said the Park Rapids girls basketball team had to play well for the entire 36 minutes in order to be successful this season.

The Panthers did play a complete game in their season opener Tuesday night as a 9-2 run late in the first half, an 8-2 run early in the second half and an 11-0 run late in the game sparked a 54-40 victory over Menahga at the Area High School gym.

After Alyssa Carlson opened the game by hitting a jump shot, Menahga used layups by Amelia Pho and Katie Miller and a basket off a rebound by Lindsey White to claim a 9-4 advantage.

Carson Lee Christenson scored off a rebound, Lydia Lutz made a layup and Hannah Wolff hit a jumper for the Panthers, but a 3-pointer by Arielle Pihlaja and a jumper by Tarah Cleveland gave Menahga a 16-11 advantage with 8:04 to play in the first half.

A jumper by Wolff and a basket off a rebound by Christenson kept the Panthers within 17-15 before a jumper by Christenson, a basket off a rebound by Olivia Vaadeland, a rebounded shot by Lutz and a 3-pointer by Wolff gave the Panthers a 24-19 lead. Two free throws by Miller made it 24-21 at the half.

Two layups by Cleveland kept Menahga within 28-25 with 15:24 to play before a jumper and 3-pointer by Wolff and a layup by Melissa Haas gave the Panthers a 36-27 cushion with 10:29 remaining.

A jumper by Miller and a 3-pointer by Beth Tormanen closed the margin to 36-34 at the 8:37 mark, but the Panthers responded as two free throws by Wolff, a layup by Vaadeland and a three-point play by Christenson provided a 43-35 edge with 5:52 remaining.

A layup off a steal by Miller pulled Menahga to within 43-38 with 4:24 to go before the Panthers sealed the win with an 11-0 run. A layup by Haas, two free throws by Vaadeland, a jumper off a steal by Wolff, and two free throws apiece by Sophie Shogren and Lutz gave the Panthers a 54-38 lead with 20 seconds to go.

Miller concluded the scoring with a layup off a steal.

Wolff led the Panthers with 19 points and eight rebounds. Vaadeland and Christenson combined for 18 points with Vaadeland leading the way with 10 rebounds. Christenson and Lutz added six rebounds each while Hailey Lundin had four assists.

Cleveland scored 14 points and Miller added 10 points for the Braves.

"This was a huge win for us," said Schumacher, whose team ended last season with a 14-game losing streak. "We were down early, but the girls fought back and gave us a lead at the half. Menahga made a couple of runs in the second half, but the girls kept their composure and built the lead back up. I was very pleased with the girls' effort. This win should give our girls confidence."

The Panthers opened the Mid-State Conference schedule at Pequot Lakes Friday night. Park Rapids hosts Wadena-Deer Creek in another conference game Tuesday night.

MENAHGA: Miller 4 2-2 10, Cleveland 5 4-5 14, B. Tormanen 1 1-6 4, Pho 1 1-2 3, White 1 4-9 6, Pihlaja 1 0-0 3, M. Tormanen 0 0-0 0, Taylor 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 for 41 (FG), 12 for 24 (FT).

PARK RAPIDS: Wolff 7 3-6 19, Lundin 1 0-0 2, Shogren 0 3-4 3, Carlson 1 0-0 2, Vaadeland 2 5-6 9, Christenson 4 1-3 9, Lutz 1 2-2 4, Haas 3 0-0 6. Totals: 19 for 49 (FG), 14 for 21 (FT).

Halftime: Park Rapids 24, Menahga 21. Three-point field goals: B. Tormanen 1, Pihlaja 1, Wolff 2. Total fouls: Menahga 18, Park Rapids 20. Fouled out: Pho. Rebounds: Park Rapids 38 (Vaadeland 10, Wolff 8, Christenson 6, Lutz 6, Shogren 4, Lundin 2, Haas 2). Assists: Park Rapids 8 (Lundin 4, Wolff 1, Carlson 1, Shogren 1, Christenson 1). Steals: Park Rapids 1 (Shogren). Blocked shots: Park Rapids 3 (Vaadeland 2, Lutz 1). Turnovers: Menahga 15, Park Rapids 23.