Panthers gave consistent effort during 14-11 season

Despite finishing with a winning record, head coach Jeff Overmyer expected even more success from the Park Rapids girls basketball team. Defense played a key role in the Panthers' early success. Park Rapids held opponents to an average of 52.8 po...

Rilee Michaelson (left) was named the Panthers' MVP after leading the team by averaging 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds a game. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Despite finishing with a winning record, head coach Jeff Overmyer expected even more success from the Park Rapids girls basketball team.

Defense played a key role in the Panthers' early success. Park Rapids held opponents to an average of 52.8 points a night in opening the season with an 11-3 record, including a 5-1 mark to stand atop the Mid-State Conference standings.

Down the stretch, the Panthers gave up an average of 66.7 points a game in closing the regular season with a 2-7 record. Losing the final four conference games dropped Park Rapids into a tie for fourth place with a 5-5 record.

Even with the rough finish, the Panthers maintained the No. 1 seed in the South for the Section 8AA tournament. Park Rapids opened the playoffs with a 72-50 win over No. 8 Long Prairie-Grey Eagle before being eliminated in the quarterfinals with a 68-48 loss to Crookston, the No. 5 seed in the North. That loss ended the Panthers' season at 14-11. Roseau, the No. 1 seed in the North, defeated Crookston 73-58 in the section title game and concluded a 30-3 season by placing third at the state Class AA tournament. Roseau was rated No. 2 in the Class AA poll entering state.

"Obviously we would have liked to have had more wins and gone deeper into the playoffs, but I was pleased with the effort. The girls always gave 100%," said Overmyer. "We played a tough schedule and we needed to play well to win games. Our losses were a result of mental errors and not being consistent."


The Panthers opened the season with section wins over Barnesville (50-45), Perham (75-52) and Staples-Motley (65-52 in the conference opener). After a conference loss to Aitkin (73-63), a section win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (65-29) and a loss to Pine River-Backus (69-56), Park Rapids put together a five-game winning streak by defeating Crosby-Ironton (71-66 in a conference game), Frazee (56-36 in a section game), Detroit Lakes (62-39 in a conference game), Pequot Lakes (63-53 in a conference game) and Nevis (74-45). The win over Pequot Lakes snapped a 26-game losing streak to the Patriots dating back to a 50-46 win on Feb. 6, 2007.

That winning streak was halted with a 71-44 loss to Pelican Rapids, but the Panthers rebounded to defeat Crookston (64-56 in a section game) and Staples-Motley (83-54) to start the season with an 11-3 record.

The end of the season didn't go as well, beginning with conference losses to Aitkin (59-49) and Crosby-Ironton (66-55) and a section loss to Roseau (89-47). Following a 63-34 section win over Bagley, the Panthers dropped a conference game to Detroit Lakes (81-65) and a game to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (74-68).

Park Rapids edged Wadena-Deer Creek (52-51 in a conference game) before ending the regular season with losses to Pequot Lakes (65-59 in the conference finale) and Menahga (81-64).

Crosby-Ironton and Pequot Lakes shared the conference title with 7-3 records while Aitkin finished at 6-4. Park Rapids joined Detroit Lakes at 5-5 while Staples-Motley finished at 0-10.

In addition to Roseau, Pelican Rapids (No. 4 in Class A) and Menahga (No. 5 in Class A) were listed in the final regular-season state polls.

For the season, the Panthers averaged 61.4 points a night while allowing 57.8 points a game. Park Rapids shot 42.2 percent from the field (645 for 1,528, including 74 for 354 on 3-pointers) and 56.1 percent on free throws (170 for 303). The opposition shot 39.3 percent from the field (553 for 1,406, including 119 for 401 on 3-pointers) and 63.0 percent on free throws (221 for 351). The Panthers averaged 20.2 turnovers a game while forcing 23.1 turnovers a night.

"Except for the game against Roseau, we were competitive in every game," said Overmyer. "No team took us lightly."


Leading the way for the Panthers this season were seniors Kaisa Coborn, Kendra Coborn, Natalie Kinkel, Julia Johnson and Whitney Steffel, and juniors Paige Johnson and Rilee Michaelson. Kendra Coborn and Paige Johnson served as captains. The five seniors earned Academic All-State honors while the team received a Gold Academic Award.

Michaelson and Kaisa Coborn (who both reached 1,000 career points in the second win over Staples-Motley) earned all-conference honors while Kendra Coborn was an all-conference honorable mention selection. Michaelson averaged 21.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in the 10 conference games while adding 21 steals and 15 assists. Michaelson had eight double-doubles, including 32 points and 17 rebounds against Staples-Motley, 30 points and 11 rebounds against Crosby-Ironton, 19 points and 16 rebounds against Detroit Lakes, 22 points and 15 rebounds against Aitkin, and 23 points and 12 rebounds against Pequot Lakes. Kaisa Coborn averaged 18.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in conference play with 36 assists and 30 steals with highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds against Crosby-Ironton, 25 points against Staples-Motley and 24 points against Detroit Lakes. Kendra Coborn led the Panthers with 57 assists while adding 41 points, 46 rebounds and 22 steals in the 10 Mid-State games with a high of 11 points against Pequot Lakes and 10 assists against Detroit Lakes.

Michaelson, who was named the team's MVP, led the Panthers by averaging 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds a game. Michaelson made 208 of 394 shots (including 18 of 59 3-pointers) and 51 of 92 free throws in scoring 485 points to move into the No. 4 spot in school history with 1,245 career points. Michaelson started all 25 games and had 280 rebounds, 60 steals, 50 assists and a team-leading 28 blocked shots. Michaelson ended the season with six straight double-doubles.

Kaisa Coborn earned Class AA All-State Honorable Mention honors after averaging 17.4 points a game. Coborn connected on 47 percent of her shots (185 for 394, including 19 of 78 3-pointers) and 52.5 percent of her free throws (29 for 54) in scoring 418 points to conclude her high school career with 1,169 points for the No. 7 spot in school history. Coborn led the team with 75 steals and had 102 rebounds and 98 assists.

Paige Johnson was second in rebounding at 5.4 per game and third in scoring at 8.1 points a game. Johnson started 19 games and shot 45.5 percent from the floor (62 for 140) and 52.7 percent at the line (29 for 55) in scoring 153 points while grabbing 102 rebounds, making 43 steals, dishing out 21 assists and blocking nine shots while being named the Panthers' Best Defensive Player.

Kendra Coborn started all 25 games and averaged 6.3 points, 5.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game. Coborn hit 37 percent of her shots (60 for 162, including 14 of 65 3-pointers) and 54.5 percent of her free throws (18 for 33) in scoring 152 points. Coborn led the team with 138 assists while contributing 105 rebounds and 66 steals and was named the team's Hardest Worker.

Julia Johnson, Steffel and Kinkel alternated as the other starter as all three seniors played in all 25 games.

Johnson averaged 3.8 points a game, making 39 of 126 shots (31.0 percent), 5 of 38 3-pointers and 13 of 22 free throws (59.1 percent) in scoring 96 points. Johnson also had 73 rebounds, 40 steals and 30 assists.


Steffel also averaged 3.8 points a game by shooting 28.2 percent from the field (37 for 131, including 7 for 38 on 3-pointers) and 66.7 percent on free throws (14 for 21) in scoring 95 points. Steffel also chipped in 70 rebounds, 18 steals and 13 assists.

Kinkel averaged 3.3 points a game by scoring 83 points while making 33 of 124 shots (26.6 percent), 11 of 66 3-pointers and 6 of 13 free throws (46.2 percent). Kinkel had 46 steals, 38 assists and 28 rebounds.

Also seeing some varsity time this season were sophomores Katie Burlingame (25 points, 21 rebounds in 13 games), Brooke Knutson (eight games), Hannah Morgan (15 points in seven games) and Ellie Ulvin (one game); and freshmen Holly Johnson (four games) and Abby Morris (four games).

"This was a fun group to coach," said Overmyer. "The seniors were huge for us with their ability to play basketball and as role models for the younger girls. They were hard workers and displayed good sportsmanship. They're leaving the program better than they found it."

Replacing the five seniors is going to be tough. However, Overmyer is counting on the Panthers to put another competitive group on the floor again next season.

"We're returning two of the best post players in the conference with Rilee and Paige, but we'll need some girls to step up next season," said Overmyer. "We have an athletic group of underclassmen coming up who will need to have a good summer. We'll need outside shooting and ball handlers next season. Our conference and section are going to be tough again. Our success next season will come down to our perimeter game."


POINTS: Michaelson 485, Ka. Coborn 418, P. Johnson 153, Ke. Coborn 152, J. Johnson 96, Steffel 95, Kinkel 83, Burlingame 25, Morgan 15, H. Johnson 4, Morris 4.


REBOUNDS: Michaelson 280, Ke. Coborn 105, Ka. Coborn 102, P. Johnson 102, J. JOhnson 73, Steffel 70, Kinkel 28, Burlingame 21, Morris 6, Morgan 3, H. Johnson 3, Knutson 2.

ASSISTS: Ke. Coborn 138, Ka. Coborn 98, Michaelson 50, Kinkel 38, J. Johnson 30, P. Johnson 21, Steffel 13, Burlingame 6, Morris 1.

STEALS: Ka. Coborn 75, Ke. Coborn 66, Michaelson 60, Kinkel 46, P. JOhnson 43, J. JOhnson 40, Steffel 18, Burlingame 6, Morris 2.

BLOCKED SHOTS: Michaelson 28, P. Johnson 9, Steffel 5, J. Jonson 2, Ke. Coborn 1, Ka. Coborn 1.

2-POINT FIELD GOALS: Michaelson 190 for 335, Ka. Coborn 166 for 316, P. Johnson 62 for 136, Ke. Coborn 46 for 97, J. Johnson 34 for 88, Steffel 30 for 93, Kinkel 22 for 58, Burlingame 10 for 25, Morgan 5 for 8, Morris 2 for 4, H. Johnson 2 for 2, Knutson 0 for 4.

3-POINT FIELD GOALS: Ka. Coborn 19 for 78, Michaelson 18 for 59, Ke. Coborn 14 for 65, Kinkel 11 for 66, Steffel 7 for 38, J. JOhnson 5 for 38, P. Johnson 0 for 4, Morgan 0 for 3, H. Johnson 0 for 1, Morris 0 for 1, Ulvin 0 for 1.

FREE THROWS: Michaelson 51 for 92, Ka. Coborn 29 for 54, P. Johnson 29 for 55, Ke. Coborn 18 for 33, Steffel 14 for 21, J. Johnson 13 for 22, Kinkel 6 for 13, Burlingame 5 for 6, Morgan 5 for 7.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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