Park girls basketball: Wolfpack brings down BearsPark broke a seven game losing streak to White Bear Lake with a 51-29 throttling of the Bears on Friday, Feb. 18, at Park High School.
By: Patrick Johnson, sports editor, South Washington County Bulletin
It had been a long time since Park beat Suburban East Conference foe White Bear Lake. The Wolfpack hadn’t beaten the Bears since Feb. 12, 2008. But, as they say, that’s ancient history.
Park broke a seven game losing streak to White Bear Lake with a 51-29 throttling of the Bears on Friday, Feb. 18, at Park High School.
Up 20-13, Park (12-4; 7-2 SEC) opened the second half with an 11-2 run to make it a 16-point game and never looked back.
“We were talking about it before the game,” Park senior Larissa Lurken said. “It feels amazing. We haven’t beaten White Bear since I’ve been here. White Bear has always been good. It feels really good to finally get them.”
Lurken scored a game-high 22 points, including 13 in the second half in the win over the Bears (7-10; 6-3 SEC). In addition, junior guard Sydney Lamberty netted 18 points in the game, with 10 coming after the break.
“We played really well as a team,” Lurken said. “The theme this year is a fist – having five players on the court coming together. I think we definitely did that tonight.”
Park head coach Stephanie Tolkinen called the win “huge.”
“We talked about it at practice. It was time to end the streak,” she said. “It was one of our goals. We want to win every game, of course, but to end a streak like that was big. I think the girls recognized that.”
A key to Park’s win was a staunch defense. The 29 points scored tied a season low for White Bear Lake, which didn’t make a 3-point basket in the game.
“I really liked our defense tonight,” Tolkinen said. “I thought our perimeter pressure, overall, was really good. They didn’t get too many open looks. They had to press for their shots. They came in the paint and they were throwing up rocks. That’s because of our defense.”
In the game, Park jumped out to an 11-3 lead, but then went nearly 7 minutes without a point as White Bear clawed back. A basket by White Bear Lake junior Jordyn Foley at the buzzer made it a 20-13 game at the half. The Bears were aided by 12 fouls called on Park in the first half alone. White Bear scored seven of its 13 first-half points from the free-throw line.
The second half was pretty much all Park, however.
The Wolfpack scored the second-half’s first eight points, capped by a 3-point play by Lurken on a fast break off a nice pass from sophomore Carlie Williams, to make it a 28-13 game with 14:14 left to play. Park sunk the dagger in when junior Temi Ogunrinde stole the ball at mid-court, streaked down the floor and converted a layup to make it a 40-21 game with 7:39 remaining.
“I was just happy I made it, because I’ve been struggling making my layups lately,” Ogunrinde said. “It felt good to get that one down. But, we didn’t let up. No matter how big the lead was, we kept going until the end.”
Park outscored White Bear Lake 31-16 in the second half.
“Kids just found opportunities to score,” Tolkinen said. “We knew they were going to overplay and we got some back cuts and got to the free-throw line on some drives. I didn’t think the first half was bad, I just thought shots weren’t falling and that we may not have been as patient as we’re capable of being and waiting for specific things we wanted to get. I thought the mistakes we made were our mistakes, it wasn’t anything White Bear Lake was doing to us, it was just stuff we needed to clean up.”
Tolkinen said she was especially pleased with the way her team handled White Bear Lake’s defensive pressure.
“They chose to press the whole game and we beat their press,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of turnovers because of their press. We handled the pressure well. I thought we had good composure in the game, especially in the second half.”
The lopsided win was Park’s third straight since coming back from a 22-point deficit and nearly upsetting No. 5 Roseville on Jan. 8.
“I think it’s a good time to start rolling, because we’re coming up to the end of the year,” Lurken said. “It’s going pretty good right now.”
Prior to the win over White Bear Lake, Park took down Mounds View 59-43 on Tuesday in Cottage Grove. Much like the win over White Bear Lake, Park grabbed an eight-point lead in the first half then outscored the Mustangs 31-20 in the second half for the victory.
Lamberty led all scorers in the game with 23 points. Lurken netted 17 and sophomore Annie Williams scored 11 points.
The wins over Mounds View and White Bear Lake concluded the first half of the conference schedule.
Park traveled to Woodbury on Tuesday, after the Bulletin went to print, to try and avenge a loss to the rival Royals earlier this year. Next, Park is at East Ridge – a team the Wolfpack has never lost to.
Tolkinen said she’s looking forward to the second half of the season.
“The girls are putting things together and figuring some things out,” Tolkinen said. “They’re really starting to come together as a team. I’m excited about the direction we’re moving.”