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Girls Basketball: Park Rapids showed potential during 11-15 season

Abby Morris capped off her senior season by earning Mid-State Conference, team MVP honors.

AbbyMorrisApril2.jpg
Abby Morris (2) capped off her senior season by being named the Panthers' MVP and earning Mid-State Conference honors.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

PARK RAPIDS – Despite falling short of posting a winning record, head coach Nic Lembcke saw a lot of promising things from the Park Rapids girls basketball team this season.

Three close losses early and a four-game losing streak to end the season prevented the Panthers from reaching that goal, resulting in an 11-15 overall record.

After opening the season with wins over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (55-42) and Nevis (63-37), the Panthers went through a six-game losing streak, starting with losses to Pelican Rapids (45-39), Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (43-41), Wadena-Deer Creek (37-36) and Menahga (74-44). Park Rapids followed with losses to Pequot Lakes (65-51) and Minneapolis North (55-54) at the Pequot Lakes tournament.

That losing streak was snapped with a 48-41 win over Frazee. The Panthers lost to Crookston 40-31, defeated Staples-Motley (61-35) and Bagley (75-39), lost to Perham (50-42) and defeated Aitkin (82-31). After losses to Norwood-Young American (60-43) and Detroit Lakes (52-34), Park Rapids went on a four-game winning streak by defeating Thief River Falls (51-44), Staples-Motley (82-57), Aitkin (68-35) and Sebeka (71-56).

The Panthers split games with Crosby-Ironton, losing 67-48 and winning 69-66 in overtime, before closing out the regular season with losses to Detroit Lakes (60-46), Pequot Lakes (66-52) and Hawley (65-47).

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Pequot Lakes won the Mid-State Conference title with a 10-0 record while Detroit Lakes followed at 8-2. Both teams qualified for the state tournament. Park Rapids tied Crosby-Ironton for third place with 5-5 records while Staples-Motley and Aitkin finished at 1-9.

Going 3-7 against Section 8AA teams gave the Panthers the No. 10 seed for the playoffs. Park Rapids opened the tournament with a 55-45 loss to No. 7 Pelican Rapids. No. 1 Fergus Falls defeated No. 2 Menahga 51-29 in the Section 8AA title game.

For the season, the Panthers averaged 53.0 points a game while allowing 50.7 points a night. Park Rapids shot 36.3% from the field (489 for 1,348, including making 192 of 550 3-pointers) and 45.7% on free throws (209 for 382) while turning the ball over an average of 18.3 times a game. The opposition shot 37.7% from the field (including 25.3% on 3-pointers) and 62.7% on free throws while committing an average of 21.3 turnovers a game.

“I thought we had a very solid season, but we did fall a little short of our goal in wins. A lot of that damage was done early in the season. We had an early six-game losing streak where three of the losses were by 1 or 2 points,” said Lembcke. “To the girls’ credit, they continued working hard and focusing on what we could do to improve. I was very proud of the way they handled that adversity. It really shows the character of this group. We were able to turn things around and play some good basketball to close out the season.”

Leading the Panthers this season were senior Abby Morris; juniors Tori Weaver, Olivia Davis, Mickey Clark, Julia Harmon and Mady Maninga; sophomore Gabi Shepersky; and freshmen Anna Yliniemi and Halle Eischens.

Weaver led the Panthers in scoring at 12.0 points a game, scoring 299 points while finishing second on the team with 58 3-pointers, 53 assists, 46 steals and 10 blocked shots. Weaver also had 64 rebounds.

Shepersky was second on the team in scoring at 11.5 points a game and led the Panthers with 81 3-pointers. Shepersky scored 298 points and had 62 rebounds, 38 steals and 15 assists.

Morris led the Panthers with 108 rebounds, 77 steals and 73 assists and was third in scoring at 6.5 points a game. Morris scored 170 points, making 34 3-pointers.

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Davis averaged 5.8 points a game, scoring 140 points, and was second on the team with 106 rebounds. Davis also had 37 steals and 25 assists.

Yliniemi averaged 4.0 points a game, scoring 89 points, and had 87 rebounds, 32 steals and 19 assists.

Clark had 50 assists, 43 rebounds and 36 steals while scoring 95 points for an average of 3.7 points a game.

Harmon averaged 3.7 points a game, led the team with 13 blocks and was third on the team with 105 rebounds. Harmon scored 95 points and had 32 assists and 18 steals.

Eischens scored 70 points (3.2 per game) and had 54 rebounds, 39 assists and 26 steals.

Maninga chipped in 52 points (2.2 per game), 39 rebounds and 12 assists.

Also seeing some varsity time were juniors Avery Cederstrom, Natalia Lopez and Natalie Viloria; sophomores Amelia Bagstad, Macey Lund and Kilea Persons; and freshmen Nora Cederstrom and Allie Rowland.

Morris (74 points, 44 rebounds, 34 assists, 30 steals, 17 3-pointers in 10 games) and Weaver (131 points, 19 rebounds, 15 assists, 21 steals, 25 3-pointers in 10 games) earned Mid-State Conference honors while Davis (54 points, 42 rebounds, 10 assists, 13 steals in nine games) and Shepersky (122 points, 21 rebounds, 12 steals, five assists, 35 3-pointers in 10 games) received all-conference honorable mention consideration.

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Team awards went to Morris (MVP), Davis (Ms. Defense), Yliniemi (Most Improved) and Clark (Team Spirit).

With Morris as the lone senior on the team, Lembcke is counting on an even better season from the Panthers next winter.

“Abby is going to be difficult to replace. She was a two-year captain and a three-year starter at point guard. She is someone who contributes in a lot of areas. Abby was asked to be the primary ball handler and was often asked to guard one of the opposing team’s best perimeter players. Her all-around production will be difficult to replace. Everyone will need to step up and bear a little bit of that burden,” said Lembcke. “I feel very excited about the group of girls we have returning. We have a lot of talented players and there should be a lot of good competition for spots at every level. The offseason is going to be the key to accomplishing our goals for next season. I believe that most games are won by the most talented team. When the talent level is close, you can win with scheme and execution. Because of this, our offseason program will be built around developing skilled players. We are going to allocate a lot of our time to building the core skills of shooting, ball handling and defense. We will also put an emphasis on the things that hurt us this season, such as offensive rebounds and turnovers. I am confident that this group will put in the work necessary to have another successful season and continue moving this program forward.”

PARK RAPIDS STATISTICS
SCORING AVERAGE: Weaver 12.0, Shepersky 11.5, Morris 6.5, Davis 5.8, Yliniemi 4.0, Clark 3.7, Harmon 3.7, Eischens 3.2, Maninga 2.2, Viloria 2.0, Persons 1.6, A. Cederstrom 1.3, Lund 1.2, Lopez 0.6.
POINTS: Weaver 299, Shepersky 298, Morris 170, Davis 140, Clark 95, Harmon 95, Yliniemi 89, Eischens 70, Maninga 52, Persons 19, Lund 13, A. Cederstrom 9, Lopez 7, Viloria 4.
REBOUNDS: Morris 108, Davis 106, Harmon 105, Yliniemi 87, Weaver 64, Shepersky 62, Eischens 54, Clark 43, Maninga 39, Persons 8, Lund 8, Lopez 6, A. Cederstrom 2, Bagstad 1, N. Cederstrom 1, Rowland 1.
ASSISTS: Morris 73, Weaver 53, Clark 50, Eischens 39, Harmon 32, Davis 25, Yliniemi 19, Shepersky 15, Maninga 12, Lopez 5, Persons 2, A. Cederstrom 2, Lund 1, Bagstad 1.
STEALS: Morris 77, Weaver 46, Sherpersky 38, Davis 37, Clark 36, Yliniemi 32, Eischens 26, Harmon 18, Maninga 8, Lopez 6, A. Cederstrom 3, Persons 2, Lund 2, N. Cederstrom 1.
BLOCKED SHOTS: Harmon 13, Weaver 10, Shepersky 7, Davis 7, Morris 5, Yliniemi 4, Maninga 1.
FIELD GOALS: Weaver 104-271, Shepersky 100-272, Davis 56-131, Morris 54-140, Harmon 37-114, Clark 33-107, Yliniemi 32-93, Eischens 25-72, Maninga 21-62, Persons 8-26, Lund 4-10, Lopez 3-3, A. Cederstrom 3-10, Viloria 1-1, Bagstad 0-2, N. Cederstrom 0-0, Rowland 0-0.
3-POINTERS: Shepersky 81-212, Weaver 58-151, Morris 34-89, Clark 9-42, Eischens 3-29, A. Cederstrom 2-5, Harmon 2-7, Davis 2-7, Persons 1-2, Yliniemi 0-5.
FREE THROWS: Weaver 33-53, Morris 28-56, Davis 26-47, Yliniemi 25-39, Clark 20-38, Harmon 19-39, Eischens 17-24, Shepersky 17-26, Maninga 10-28, Lund 5-10, Viloria 2-2, Lopez 1-2, A. Cederstrom 1-2.
MINUTES: Morris 727, Davis 658, Weaver 652, Clark 590, Shepersky 573, Harmon 520, Eischens 354, Yliniemi 372, Maninga 245, Lund 49, Persons 46, A. Cederstrom 40, Lopez 37, Bagstad 18, Viloria 3, Rowland 2, N. Cederstron 1.
FOULS: Harmon 72, Weaver 58, Davis 50, Clark 50, Morris 47, Shepersky 46, Eischens 27, Yliniemi 27, Maninga 26, A. Cederstrom 5, Lopez 4, Lund 3, Persons 2, Bagstad 1, Viloria 1.
TURNOVERS: Eischens 70, Clark 64, Morris 62, Weaver 56, Shepersky 45, Harmon 42, Davis 41, Yliniemi 35, Maninga 24, Lopez 8, A. Cederstrom 7, Persons 5, Lund 4, Bagstad 1, N. Cederstrom 1.

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