Last night’s 48-39 win for the Parkers Prairie girls’ basketball team at Osakis was the kind of game that should benefit both teams in the long run.
For 28 minutes on Tuesday night, it looked like Osakis might hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. The Silverstreaks were limiting transition opportunities for Parkers Prairie and the Panthers were struggling to convert in their half court offense.
A few Osakis turnovers changed the tide midway through the second half. Junior forward Ally Taylor culminated that stretch with a steal and lay-up that gave Parkers Prairie a 32-31 lead with 7:12 left. The Panthers never trailed again as Taylor drained a three the next time down the court to help keep the Silverstreaks at an arm’s length the rest of the way.
“They were playing really hard defense on all of us, but especially Micaela [Noga] and Madi [Dorn],” Taylor said after scoring all seven of her points late in the second half. “I just felt they needed me in the game, and I had to step up.”
With the emergence of Taylor this year, the Panthers now have three players who head coach John Noga feels are capable of taking over a game at important times. Dorn and Noga are two of the best Class A players in the area and have been for a long time. They have proven their ability to run all over most teams on their schedule over recent years. On Tuesday, the Panthers showed they can win the type of half court game that they will likely have to play come tournament time.
“We know that we want to control the [tempo] of the game,” M. Noga said. “But we also know that it comes down to half-court offense and half-court defense. It doesn’t matter if we can press a team. When it boils down to playoffs it boils down to the best teams in the state. We gotta be able to play our best half-court offense and defense at that time.”
Even in a loss, Osakis now has an idea of where it needs to improve in that aspect. The Silverstreaks have already shown they can beat the kind of teams they will face in the playoffs with their win over Sauk Centre last Tuesday.
Osakis executed well down the stretch that night to hold off a late charge by the Mainstreeters and win 49-40. That same execution wasn’t there against the Panthers.
“We were just out of sync for about three or four minutes,” Osakis head coach Pat Kalpin said. “Those are the things that we’ve just got to get better at. We’ve played against good defensive teams for crying out loud. It’s not that we haven’t seen that pressure before. We just played against one last Tuesday (Sauk Centre) that was probably better than that as far as defense goes. We got into the mode where we just kind of got stagnant for a while, and they made us pay for it.”
Noga said she spent much of the first half trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of Osakis’ star guard Annalise Savageau. Savageau had 10 points in the first half as she connected from the free throw line and on a few mid-range jumpers. Noga extended her defense on her in the second half to force a couple turnovers and held her scoreless until a five-point spurt by Savageau in the closing minutes of the game.
“I’ve actually never really played against her and never really seen her play before,” Noga said of the match-up of top area point guards. “So I was trying to figure her out in the first half. The second half it was, ‘OK, I can really pressure her more because she’s an OK ball handler and maybe I can get in her head a little more.”
Those are the kind of adjustments good teams and good players make during the course of a game. That’s why the Silverstreaks were so eager to take on the Panthers with 12 games left in the regular season. Parkers Prairie found out it can win close games by closing well down the stretch, and Osakis has a better idea of what it needs to improve on to get there.
“It has no bearing on where we’re going to end up at the end of the year or anything,” Kalpin said. “It’s a game that’s going to prepare us to get better. The good teams, they really show your weaknesses. They expose your weaknesses. Tonight, they exposed a few things, and we’ll just work on them. That’s all we can do.”