Wolfpack bounce back with non-conference win

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Park bounced back from its first loss of the season — a 68-57 defeat at fifth-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall Tuesday, Dec. 12 — but it took the Wolfpack a while to get rolling on Saturday afternoon.

Park led visiting Henry Sibley just 26-25 at the half, but dominated the second half for a 66-55 non-conference victory.

It was Park's sixth win in seven games so far this season.

The Wolfpack tightened up the defense and ran their offense much better in the second half to pull away from the visitors.

"I just felt we just had to figure some things out," Park coach Stephanie Tolkinen said. "We scouted them but still you come into some unknowns. ... I just give our kids a ton of credit for just hanging in, taking the lead right before halftime and then coming out — we decided to be a little more aggressive on defense. We felt that we could pressure the ball a little bit more, try to do some traps on their guards a little bit. Then we had a lot of success that way."

Park senior guards Riley Perryman and Taylor Johnson combined for just three points in the first half. The second half was a different game altogether as Perryman scored 12 points after the break, Johnson had 10 and senior Molly Wenner made her season debut a success with nine.

"It was really good to be back with the girls I've been playing with for awhile and just being back in the swing of things," Wenner said.

"We picked up our energy so much in the second half," added Wenner. "Our first half we didn't run as much offense and our defense was all over the place but I think we really stepped up our defense in the second half."

Wenner drained a 3-point field goal and Johnson followed with another outside shot as Park broke away from a one-point halftime lead to a 40-32 advantage with 13:20 remaining. Sibley closed to within six points at 48-42 and 54-48 with 2:49 to play, but could never come closer.

"We could attack almost at will at times," Tolkinen said. "We just needed to be patient enough to let that attack come. Their shots were coming off of penetration though. Because the ball went in and then it comes out and our shooters are ready to shoot. And when the kids trust that, we have good things happen."

The Wolfpack came close to having five players in double figures. Delaney Young led the team with 16 and Chloe Venegas added 15. Young and Venegas combined for 21 points in the first half, and then turned most of the scoring over to Perryman, Johnson and Wenner.

"I think we just finally realized that we weren't going to get good shots unless we started running our offense and we settled down and started to look for open shots and all of our open shots came from our offense," Perryman said. "I know us three — when we struggled in the first half — we had to find something that's working for us and for me my outside shot wasn't working so I knew I had to start driving more."

Henry Sibley dropped to 3-3.

Park (6-1, 1-1) is scheduled to return to Suburban East Conference play Tuesday with a home game against Stillwater (4-4, 1-2), followed by a home game against Rosemount (1-7) in a non-conference game Friday.