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Defense is key to Panthers’ success

After graduating three top scorers, the Park Rapids boys basketball team will be relying on defense to produce victories this season. Last season, the Panthers averaged 61.9 points a game behind the scoring of seniors Jordan McCollum (who average...

Senior leaders
Providing leadership for the Park Rapids boys basketball team this season will be seniors (front from left) Jacob Engst, Damion Hanke, Connor Byer, Jordan Yliniemi; (back) Isaac Kosel, Remington Hagan, Tristan Breitweser.

     After graduating three top scorers, the Park Rapids boys basketball team will be relying on defense to produce victories this season.

     Last season, the Panthers averaged 61.9 points a game behind the scoring of seniors Jordan McCollum (who averaged 18.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a game), Derek Porozinski (who averaged 13.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game), Nick Lopez (who averaged 7.3 points a game) and Riley Massie (who averaged 3.0 points a game). McCollum and Porozinski were Mid-State Conference selections while McCollum ended his career with 1,101 points to become the sixth player in the history of the Park Rapids boys basketball program to reach that milestone. Those four led the Panthers to a 3-7 record in the conference and 12-15 overall record.

     This year, the Panthers will turn to defense to offset the lack of offensive firepower.

     Being counted on to lead the Panthers this season are the 11 players who saw varsity action last season. That group features seniors Remington Hagan (5-10 guard), Damion Hanke (6-1 forward), Connor Byer (6-2 center), Jordan Yliniemi (5-11 forward), Isaac Kosel (5-9 forward) and Tristan Breitweser (5-11 guard); juniors Hunter Jewison (6-2 center), Adam Herberg (5-11 forward), Tanner Becker (6-2 center) and Jake Dickinson (5-10 forward); and sophomore Jason Haas (5-9 guard).

     Hagan was third on the team in scoring last season by averaging 8.4 points a night. In 25 games, Hagan scored 210 points and led the team with 102 assists and 67 steals while grabbing 83 rebounds. Hagan made 73 of 190 field goals (38.4 percent) and 47 of 66 free throws (71.2 percent) and was 17 for 68 on 3-pointers.

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     Hanke was fifth in scoring at 5.2 points a night, hitting 58 of 168 shots (34.5 percent) and 19 of 45 free throws (42.2 percent). In 26 games, Hanke scored 135 points with 85 rebounds, 31 steals and 30 assists.

     Jewison followed by averaging 4.5 points a night. Jewison played in 24 games and made 45 of 111 shots (40.5 percent) and 18 of 42 free throws (18 for 42) in scoring 108 points. Jewison also had 106 rebounds and 22 steals.

     Herberg played in 24 games and averaged 2.7 points a game by making 21 of 60 field goals (35 percent) and 14 of 25 free throws (56 percent) for 65 points. Herberg also had 24 rebounds and 14 steals.

     Also seeing some varsity time last season were Becker (three games), Byer (17 points and 11 rebounds in 15 games), Haas (two games), Yliniemi (four games), Kosel (10 games), Breitweser (one game) and Dickinson (one game).

     Senior Jacob Engst (6-1 center) and junior Ben Garcelon (5-10 guard) will round out the varsity roster.

     “We lost a lot of scoring and we could have trouble filling that void. We’re definitely going to put an emphasis on defense. We’re going to rely heavily on our defensive pressure to force turnovers and put up offensive points. We’re going to be fresh because I can play 10 or 11 kids every game. With that depth, we’re going to be relentless on defense,” said Park Rapids head coach Matt Brandt, who will be assisted by Nic Lembcke and Scott Schafer. “We’re going to have to be more methodical on offense and be patient to get high-quality shots. We’re going to have to be very fundamentally sound to be successful.”

     The B squad roster features sophomores Blake Johnson, Carter Novak, Isaac Hagan, John Ballard, Luke Kosel and Will Pickar and freshmen Gabe Bagstad and Tristin Persons. The C squad roster features freshmen Brennen Garwood, Ethan Winter, Isaac Hoverson, Jake Reish, Payton Hill, Preston Renneberg, Rylley Clark and Ty Karger.

     Section 8AA will have a different look this season with the addition of Staples-Motley and the loss of Crosby-Ironton and Pequot Lakes to Section 7AA. Last season, Breckenridge defeated Crosby-Ironton for the section title. Entering this season, Perham, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Breckenridge and Barnesville are the favorites to win the section title.

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     In the Mid-State Conference, Detroit Lakes went 9-1 to win the title while Crosby-Ironton finished 8-2 a year ago.

     The Panthers will be looking to improve on last year’s 3-7 conference record and win enough games to host a Section 8AA playoff game for the third year in a row.

     “I see us being in the middle of the pack in the conference and section,” said Brandt. “I see us being in close games all season. We should be in every game because of our defense. Realistically, I think we can get the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in our section and get a home playoff game. Our defense will hold the key to how many wins we get this season.”

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALL
1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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