Park girls basketball: Wolfpack bend, but don’t break in big win over Forest Lake
Head coach Stephanie Tolkinen said it was Park’s biggest win of the year — so far.
Park gained a sizeable 34-19 lead early in the second half and senior Temi Ogunrinde sunk two key free throws with 10 seconds remaining to help the Wolfpack hang on to beat Suburban East Conference foe Forest Lake 49-47 on Friday, Jan. 17, in Cottage Grove.
“We have such a rivalry and know each other so well,” Tolkinen said. “These kids have been playing each other for three years. There hasn’t been a ton of change in the makeups of the teams. There’s so much respect between each other.”
The win kept Park (10-3; 6-0 SEC) undefeated and tied for the top spot in the conference, while avenging a loss to the Rangers (10-4; 6-1 SEC) at the Hopkins tournament less than a month ago.
“We had to prove to them that they couldn’t handle us and that we should be conference champs by the end of the season,” Ogunrinde said. “We practiced really hard for this game. To get the win is amazing. I’m proud of the girls. We deserved it.”
Tolkinen said her team “bent, but didn’t break.”
“The kids just had that intensity and focus tonight,” she said. “They felt like they had something to prove. I think we played well and proved we can play with the better teams. I’m just really proud of the girls.”
Park senior guard Sydney Lamberty had a team-high 16 points in the win, but scored just four in the second half as the Creighton recruit’s shots weren’t falling. However, other Park players stepped up when needed.
Ogunrinde scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half and twin sisters Annie Williams and Carlie Williams made key baskets down the stretch to help Park hold off Forest Lake. Annie Williams scored 11 points in the game and Carlie Williams had four points.
“When those other kids step up and start scoring teams realize there’s more than just Lamberty that they have to guard,” Tolkinen said.
Sparked by Lamberty’s 12 first-half points, Park jumped out to a 26-17 lead on Forest Lake, then took a 34-19 lead after beginning the second half with a 8-2 run. Ogunrinde scored six of those eight points and Annie Williams capped off the run on a nice drive and floater.
However, Forest Lake and senior center Bailey Norby chipped away at the lead.
Norby’s steal and layup cut the Rangers’ deficit to 41-40 with 3:58 remaining in the game.
Two free throws by Lamberty and a drive and layup by Annie Williams made it a 45-41 game with 1:59 left on the clock and three free throws by Ogunrinde down the stretch closed out the game for Park.
“Looking at the scoreboard I’m really glad I made them — really glad,” Ogunrinde said. “It was a great game and I’m really happy about it.”
Norby, who will join Lamberty at Creighton next year, had a game-high 18 points.
Lamberty, a 5-foot-11-inch guard, defended the much bigger player for a bulk of the time.
“When you have to guard that kind of a post player and then produce on the offensive end as well, I think she had a heck of a night,” Tolkinen said.
A staunch defensive effort was the key to the win, according to Tolkinen and Ogunrinde.
“We’ve been working on our defense all week,” Ogunrinde said. “Our defense creates our offense and that’s why we win games. That’s why we win games.”
Park also beat Stillwater (6-9; 2-5 SEC) last week, 61-42, in Cottage Grove.
Park was down 24-23 at the half, but stormed back with a 38-18 second half to put the Ponies away.
Park senior Molly Swanson scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Wolfpack in the win. Also, Lamberty had 10 points, Annie Williams scored eight points and Ogunrinde scored seven points.
Park faced rival Woodbury (5-8; 2-5 SEC) on the road Tuesday. The Wolfpack is at Hastings (1-10; 0-7 SEC) on Friday, before hosting East Ridge (8-3; 3-3 SEC) on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
“For us to get this win was a big step forward,” Tolkinen said. “We just want to keep showing improvement and progress.”