Sometimes head coaches and even players themselves will downplay a big win during the course of a regular season. The standard message is that it means nothing if they don’t carry it over into the next game.
Osakis players and head coach Pat Kalpin said things along those same lines after last night’s 72-62 win over conference foe Upsala. But they didn’t shy away from exactly how much this meant to them after snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Cardinals.
“This was one of my goals for the season was just to beat Upsala,” junior guard Annalise Savageau said. “We have lost to them the past three or four years, and we wanted it super bad. I think this helps us because Upsala, they’re a class lower, but they’re still in the top-10.”
Upsala (17-2, 10-1) came into the night ranked seventh in the latest Class A polls and sporting a 56-game winning streak against Prairie Conference opponents. Osakis (17-2, 10-1) never looked intimidated by any of that.
The Silverstreaks were dead set on playing their best game of the season from the very beginning. Brooke Sorenson set the tone with two quick three-pointers that led to a 10-0 lead before Upsala had to burn its first timeout. The Cardinals battled back behind 10 quick points from star guard Aimee Pelzer. They took their only lead of the night at 21-19 before Osakis’ sophomore guard Mackenzie Staloch flipped the momentum by scoring all eight of her points late in the half. Savageau added a late three-pointer right before the buzzer to give the Silverstreaks a 35-31 lead at the break.
“It was a big relief,” Sorenson said. “When you come out making shots, it kind of gets things rolling. We have to get out early and you can’t really have any stretches where you stop working hard.”
Kalpin challenged his girls, and junior forward Madi Forsell in particular, at halftime. Forsell was instrumental in helping Osakis to a win over Sauk Centre earlier this season, and Kalpin didn’t feel she was being aggressive enough on offense in the first half.
“I was pretty stern with her,” Kalpin said. “She’s a great shooter. She is just kind of a hidden talent that we have…They were not respecting her shot, and I just felt that for us to win, she needs to start shooting the basketball. I know she can get on a roll and knock them down. When you get one kid like that doing that, it’s just amazing what it does for the morale of your basketball team.”
Forsell responded to her coach’s challenge in a big way. She hit from inside and out on her way to leading Osakis to its biggest lead of the night at 57-41 with 10:17 left in the game. The Cardinals focused their attention on Savageau and Sorenson after they scored 11 and 10, respectively, in the opening half. That opened the door for Forsell over the final 18 minutes as she finished with a team-high 20 points.
“We knew we had to come out with our best game all year,” Forsell said. “I was just trying to be confident. We were able to execute when we needed to and everyone just knew what they were doing, so we were able to mesh together.”
The Silverstreaks were efficient on offense all night. They shot 54 percent overall (25-of-46), went 5-of-11 from the three-point line and 17-of-23 on free throws. Savageau finished with 16 points, Sorenson added 14, while Staloch and freshman forward Brittney Sadlemyer each added eight.
That depth is a testament to the growth of this team. These are the kind of players Kalpin thought many of these girls would turn into, even as they took their lumps as 8th and 9th graders getting their feet wet at the varsity level a few years ago.
“I envisioned this,” he said. “I thought coming into the year, we could be a really, really good basketball team. What I think and what actually happens is sometimes two different things, but I see the talent in this group, and it seems like it’s been a different girl stepping up game in and game out.”
Kalpin saw the potential in his team even if the rest of the state didn’t really see it coming. Osakis hasn’t been in the Class AA state rankings all season despite an impressive 17-2 record and a nice win over a now 16-1 Sauk Centre team. The only two losses for the Silverstreaks came against Upsala on December 20 and against undefeated and Class A’s third ranked team Parkers Prairie.
“I knew we were going to be good this year because we have a lot of varsity experience,” Savageau said. “We know what to expect and we have played a lot of good teams. I thought we could beat teams like this.”
The rest of the Section 6AA field has no choice but to start taking notice as well. This team has proven through this point in the season that it should be considered a serious threat come tournament time.
“I think knocking off Sauk was the first step,” Kalpin said. “That proved to them that we could play with some of the best teams in the state. Our two losses are to Upsala and Parkers Prairie, two high ranked and good basketball teams. I think those losses, especially against Parkers Prairie, has probably done more for us than any other game. Since that game, the whole team has had a different mindset it seems.”
The win over Upsala last night was this team’s seventh straight since that loss to Parkers Prairie on January 15. The victory over the Cardinals was the biggest of the bunch. The Silverstreaks now control their own destiny to capture at least a share of the Prairie Conference title for the first time since 2009. Couple that with a perfect 8-0 record against section opponents this season, and this team’s confidence is as high as it’s been coming down the stretch.
“It’s through the roof,” Forsell said. “[Coach] always says he wants us to be playing our best at the end and to improve throughout the year. I think we’re just getting stronger and stronger with each practice and each game.”