Park boys basketball: ’Pack beats South St. Paul for win No. 2After winning just two total games the past two seasons, the Park boys basketball team tied that number already this year.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
After winning just two total games the past two seasons, the Park boys basketball team tied that number already this year.
Park beat non-conference foe South St. Paul 60-45 on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Park High School, for its second win of the 2011-12 season. After going 2-52 the past two years, the Wolfpack is now 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the Suburban East Conference.
Park head coach J Schwartz said the team isn’t focused on wins and losses, but being able to enjoy a victory on the heels of a lot of hard work is a positive for his squad.
“Our ultimate goal is to get a little bit better every day and the scoreboard will take care of itself, but it’s good seeing the scoreboard on our side twice already this year,” Schwartz said. “It’s good to go in the locker room after the games and see smiles on the guys’ faces. It’s good for our school and the community. It’s a wonderful feeling and we hope we can feel that way a few more times this year.”
Park scored an impressive 45 points in the first half alone in the win over the Packers (0-6), then held on for the win, outscoring South St. Paul 17-13 in the second half.
Ten players scored in the game for the Wolfpack, which had 15 turnovers, including only five in the second half.
“It was a complete team effort,” Schwartz said. “We always talk about rebounding, defense and taking care of the ball. In all those facets we did a very good job.”
Park senior Anthony Tola was “all over the place” in the win, according to Schwartz. Tola, a forward, had 12 points, four rebounds, four steals, two blocks and an assist against the Packers.
“He was everywhere, hustling like crazy,” Schwartz said. “He’s a flat-out effort guy. It’s not always pretty, but he was our sparkplug in that game and the game before.”
Also, senior guard Robert Briggs scored a team-high 13 points, going 3-for-7 from the 3-point line, junior forward Justin Myers had seven rebounds and senior Austen Kruzeski played staunch defense, according to Schwartz.
After the win, Park opened its conference schedule against perennial power Stillwater, falling 76-49. The Wolfpack was down 41-31 at the half and stayed with the Ponies (2-2; 1-0 SEC) for the majority of game, however.
“(Stillwater) is very athletic and very good shooters and they press after every make,” Schwartz said. “We did a good job defensively. We had a few breakdowns and had a tough time containing them. If we could have just done a better job maintaining our defensive principals it could’ve been even closer than it was. We just need to get used to playing against teams in the SEC that are big and strong and fast. We need to rely on our fundamentals and do what we do.”
Schwartz said playing consistently is the key right now.
“We need to get more consistent – in games and in practice,” Schwartz said. “We need to be more consistent every day, not just game days. If we shoot the ball we can hang with conference teams. That helps, but we just can’t give up 41 points in a half and stay in conference games. That’s not going to happen.”
Myers, the Wolfpack’s leading scorer on the year at 10.4 points per game, had a game-high 22 points, going 6-of-9 from behind the 3-point line, to go along with six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“He has a knack for putting the ball in the hoop and he’s trying to be a leader, doing a lot of good talk in the locker room,” Schwartz said. “Like our whole team, Justin needs to be consistent on both ends. He’s getting there.”
Also, Kruzeski had nine points and eight rebounds and Briggs had six points and two assists.
Park took on non-conference foe Farmington on Tuesday, Dec. 20, on the road after the Bulletin went to press. Next, the Wolfpack competes against Prescott (Wis.) and North Branch at South St. Paul on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 27 and 28, after the holiday weekend.
“Consistency is the key,” Schwartz said. “We just need to keep pounding on those things and getting a little bit better.”
After the break, Park will begin the heart of conference games, starting at Hastings on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and Forest Lake on Friday, Jan. 6, at Park High School.
It’s been a while since the Park boys basketball team won a Suburban East Conference game.
The Wolfpack last won a conference game on Feb. 20 of 2009, beating White Bear Lake 63-61 amidst a 7-19 campaign three seasons ago.
Schwartz said he, and the team, are well-aware of the challenge ahead.
“We’ve been talking about it. We’ve won a couple non-conference games and we hope to win a couple more over the next week, but we know the majority of our schedule is against the Suburban East and there are no easy games on that 16-game conference schedule. Right now, we’re trying to do the ordinary and hope the extraordinary happens. We may be an ordinary team as far as what we do and our talent level compared to some other teams, but you put it all together and good things can happen.”