Park boys basketball gets first season-opening win since 2007The victory at Park High School allowed the Wolfpack to match its win total from last year – just one game into the 2011-12 season.
By: Patrick Johnson, South Washington County Bulletin
With a 45-41 win over Simley, the Park boys basketball team is 1-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The victory, on Friday at Park High School, allowed the Wolfpack to match its win total from last year – just one game into the 2011-12 season.
“It was a good win. The guys worked really, really hard,” Park head coach J Schwartz said. “It was very special because it was the home opener and afterwards it was fun to say to the guys that we’re 1-0.”
On Dec. 7 of 2007, Park started 1-0 after beating Minneapolis Roosevelt 65-64 in the season opener on the way to a 9-18 record. Last week, Park achieved what it couldn’t the past three years, winning its opener by amassing a sizeable lead on Simley then holding on for the win in the closing seconds.
Park led 22-15 at the half and by as much as 13 points early in the second half, but the Spartans (0-1) chipped away, pulling within two points with under a minute to play. However, Park junior Justin Myers sank two clutch free throws to give the Wolfpack a four-point lead, 45-41, with 7 seconds remaining.
And all that was left was to celebrate.
“It felt fantastic,” Schwartz said. “Our guys were excited. They kind of celebrated like they won the state title. But, that’s how they felt and reacted to it.”
The win also helped the Wolfpack avenge a 50-49 loss at Simley last season.
“I think the guys have a chip on their shoulder,” Schwartz said. “Last spring and this summer and fall the guys worked unbelievably hard in the weight room and on the court with their skills. I think they feel they have something to prove a little bit.”
After going 1-26 in back-to-back years, Park is 2-52 the past two seasons. Schwartz said the team adopted the motto “Be the change” for this season. After losing the team’s top five scorers to graduation, Schwartz said he knows his team will only be able to change its course if it outworks teams.
He said he felt Friday was a good example of that.
“I think we beat them to nearly every loose ball and had a lot of energy baskets,” Schwartz said. “The intensity was great. We’re not the biggest, strongest, fastest team, but I’m very impressed by how hard these guys have worked. Every single day at practice they beat the heck out of each other and that’s one of the reasons we’ve improved.”
In the win, Park pulled down 53 rebounds – more than 20 more than Simley.
Myers, a 6’5” forward, led the way with a team-high 18 rebounds to go along with 11 points. Also, senior forward Anthony Tola had 10 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive) and senior guard Robert Briggs scored a team-high 12 points – nailing four three-pointers.
Schwartz said the three main things his team concentrated on in the preseason were defense, rebounding and avoiding turnovers.
“Giving up 41 points was fantastic and shows how hard they worked and how dedicated they are to defense,” Schwartz said. “We did a great job on the boards, too. That was great. We didn’t take a good job taking care of the ball. But, the guys know it and we’ll clean that up.”
Park was at North St. Paul on Tuesday, Dec. 6, after the Bulletin went to print. Next, the Wolfpack travels to Bemidji on Friday, Dec. 9, for its annual northern pilgrimage, where the team will play out-state squads on consecutive nights.
“The games will be tough, but you get on the bus and you can laugh and watch movies, then share the hotel together and bond a little bit,” Schwartz said. “Having fun is a good thing.”