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Staying healthy, avoiding foul trouble will be keys for Panthers

Head coach Jeff Overmyer says the Park Rapids girls basketball team can compete with any team in the area. Being able to contend for the Mid-State Conference and Section 8AA titles will depend on whether the Panthers can stay healthy and stay out...

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This year's Park Rapids girls basketball team will be led by seniors (front from left) Natalie Kinkel, Kendra Coborn, Julia Johnson; (back) Whitney Steffel, Kaisa Coborn, Gracie Eischens. Vance Carlson / Enteprrise

Head coach Jeff Overmyer says the Park Rapids girls basketball team can compete with any team in the area.

Being able to contend for the Mid-State Conference and Section 8AA titles will depend on whether the Panthers can stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble.

The Panthers will start the season with only eight varsity players. That group features seven players who return from last year's team that finished second in the conference standings with a 7-3 record and went 14-12 overall. Seniors Kaisa Coborn, Kendra Coborn, Julia Johnson, Natalie Kinkel and Whitney Steffel join juniors Paige Johnson and Rilee Michaelson return and will be counted on to lead the Panthers this season. Senior Gracie Eischens will move up from last year's junior varsity team and round out the varsity squad.

"We have a pretty good squad, but we don't have the depth like we had last year," said Overmyer, who will be assisted by Joel Steffel and Megan Cole. "We're going to have to be in shape. Our returning seven will have to play a lot of minutes. Staying healthy is huge. If we can do that, we'll be in a pretty good position."

The Coborns, Michaelson and Paige Johnson return to the starting lineup while Julia Johnson, Kinkel and Steffel will go from being role players last season to playing key roles this season. Those seven players helped Park Rapids average 60.0 points a game while allowing 57.9 points a night. The Panthers shot 37.6 percent from the field (631 for 1,679) and 56.3 percent at the free throw line (204 for 362) while making 91 of 374 3-point attempts. The Panthers also turned the ball over 19.1 times a game.

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Michaelson received Mid-State Conference honors after leading the Panthers in scoring at 16.9 points a game and in rebounding at 8.6 a night. Michaelson started all 26 games in the post and scored 440 points by making 192 of 396 shots (48.5 percent) and 39 of 81 free throws (48.1 percent). Michaelson hit 17 of 68 3-pointers while tallying 224 rebounds, 55 steals, 41 assists and 17 blocked shots.

Kaisa Coborn also earned all-conference honors after averaging 13.0 points a game and making a team-leading 38 3-pointers in 142 attempts at guard. Coborn made 114 of 325 field goals (35.1 percent) and 47 of 64 free throws (73.4 percent) for 313 points. Coborn played in 24 games and had 91 rebounds, 85 assists and 68 steals.

Kendra Coborn was an all-conference honorable mention selection after leading the team with 110 assists while averaging 6.3 points in 24 games as the Panthers' point guard. Coborn hit 55 of 189 shots (29.1 percent), including 27 of 99 3-pointers, and 14 of 25 free throws (56.0 percent) while scoring 151 points. Coborn also had 60 rebounds and 33 steals.

Paige Johnson played in all 26 games and averaged 6.4 points while grabbing 129 rebounds as a forward. Johnson hit 64 of 182 field goals (35.2 percent) and 38 of 59 free throws (64.4 percent) in scoring 167 points. Johnson also had 45 steals and 19 assists.

Steffel played in 16 games and tallied 28 points, 15 rebounds, 11 steals and five assists. Julia Johnson contributed 23 points, 18 rebounds, seven steals and six assists in 16 games. Kinkel played in 14 games and had 9 points, nine assists, eight steals and five rebounds. Kinkel returns at guard while Steffel and Johnson will play guard and forward.

Graduation left the Panthers will four key players to replace. Jaiden McCollum earned all-conference honorable mention honors after averaging 10.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. McCollum scored 278 points in 26 games as a starting forward to finish her career with 1,281 points to rank No. 3 on the school's all-time scoring list. McCollum led the team with 70 steals and was second with 214 rebounds and 91 assists. Olivia McDonald had 75 points and 57 rebounds in 26 games at forward. Jordan Klemmer had 48 points, 35 rebounds and 22 steals in 22 games at guard. Kortne Byer chipped in 25 points, 50 rebounds, 18 steals and 16 assists in 24 games at guard.

Starting the season on junior varsity will be junior Maddie Soldwisch; sophomores Hannah Morgan, Katie Burlingame, Brooke Knutson and Ellie Ulvin; and freshmen Holly Johnson and Abby Morris. The C squad will feature Mikaela Nelson, Laila Nelmark, Destiny Villarreal, Amber Berndt, Maddie Nevala, Aurora Annette, Marriyam Ejaz, Natalie Harvey and Emma Fertin.

"We'll need some junior varsity players to step up and help us out on varsity," said Overmyer. "We're going to press a lot and put more emphasis on defense. There are a lot of good teams in the section that have the ability to score. We need to slow them down. We need to hold teams to the 50s, which is going to be tough. We need to play better defense and reduce the number of points scored against us to be successful."

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Pequot Lakes won the conference title with an 8-2 record while Aitkin (6-4), Crosby-Ironton (6-4), Detroit Lakes (3-7) and Staples-Motley (0-10) rounded out the Mid-State standings. Park Rapids received the No. 3 seed in the South for the Section 8AA tournament and opened with a 65-52 win over No. 6 Long Prairie-Grey Eagle before falling to Roseau, the No. 2 seed in the North, 81-46 in the quarterfinals. Roseau defeated East Grand Forks 72-66 in the Section 8AA championship game and advanced to the state Class AA championship game, losing to Sauk Centre 63-52.

Overmyer is counting on the Panthers to challenge for the conference title and make a run at competing for the section title again this season.

"These girls are good athletes and they know how to play basketball," said Overmyer. "The conference is up for grabs. I think we can win it. It comes down to playing consistent basketball. I think we can compete with any team in the section if we play well. If everyone plays well, we can beat any team in the section."

SEASON SCHEDULE

Nov. 29 - at Barnesville, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3 - vs. Perham, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 - at Staples-Motley, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 11 - vs. Aitkin, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 - vs. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 - at Pine River-Backus, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29 - vs. Crookston, 3 p.m.

Jan. 4 - vs. Crosby-Ironton, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8 - vs. Frazee, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 - vs. Detroit Lakes, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 - at Pequot Lakes, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 17 - vs. Nevis, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 - at Pelican Rapids, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 - vs. Staples-Motley, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 - at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 31 - at Aitkin, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 5 - at Crosby-Ironton, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 8 - vs. Roseau, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 - at Bagley, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 - at Detroit Lakes, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 15 - at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 - at Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 - vs. Pequot Lakes, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 - at Menahga, 7:30 p.m.

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