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Park girls basketball: Wolfpack earns revenge with win over No. 5 Bears

Park sophomore center Ally Gorres goes up for a shot in the Wolfpack’s 55-50 win over White Bear Lake on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in Cottage Grove. Gorres led the Wolfpack with a game-high 13 points to go along with a team-leading five rebounds. (Submitted photo by Scott Briggs)

Park bounced back from three-straight losses in a big way.

The Wolfpack took down No. 5-ranked White Bear Lake 55-50 on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in Cottage Grove.

The victory came on the heels of Park’s first losing streak of the season.

“Sometimes I think you have to lose some games to gain a little perspective,” Park head coach Stephanie Tolkinen said. “If losing those three games makes us a better team, you have to take it. It was kind of a wake-up call.”

Park, currently third in the Suburban East Conference, moved up to No. 7 in the Class AAA after the win over the Bears (20-2; 12-2 SEC).

“I feel it’s a statement that we can play with anyone,” Tolkinen said. “We’re still not all the way there. We’re working on getting to a point of peak performance. Hopefully that happens at the right time.”

It was only White Bear Lake’s second loss of the year. The Bears edged Park 53-49 on Feb. 6 in White Bear Lake.

“Beating them showed that we can really do this and you can tell the girls are believing in themselves more,” Park senior guard Sydney Lamberty said. “It felt really good. It was a team win and everyone contributed. Everyone was happy. It was a good game.”

Park (15-6; 11-3 SEC) took a 29-24 lead into the locker room at halftime and held off the Bears in the second half to earn the victory.

Three players scored in double figures for Park in the win. Park sophomore center Ally Gorres led the Wolfpack with a game-high 13 points to go along with a team-leading five rebounds. Lamberty scored 10 points, to go along with seven assists and four rebounds and senior forward Temi Ogunrinde scored 10 points. Also, senior guard Molly Swanson netted nine points for Park and junior guard Annie Williams had five steals.

“Everyone played great,” Lamberty said. “Ally Gorres definitely stepped up her game. She was unstoppable in the paint. That was cool. She’s playing amazing.”

Tolkinen said it was “absolutely the best team effort of the season.” “Everyone pitched in,” Tolkinen said. “It all started with our defensive effort. Every kid stepped up to the challenge of defense and rebounding, especially.”

Park followed up the victory with a 19-point win over Mounds View.

Park was actually down 29-24 at the half, but the second half was a different story.

Park outscored the Mustangs 35-11 after the break.

The Wolfpack gave up just two field goals and seven free throws in the second half. Park scored 14 of its points in transition.

“The second half was such a great defensive effort by the kids,” Tolkinen said. “They came out and accepted the challenge we laid out for them at halftime. They really picked up the level of play significantly.”

Lamberty and Gorres each scored a game-high 19 points. Gorres had a double-double adding 11 rebounds and three assists and Lamberty also had four rebounds and two assists.

Tolkinen said she’s liking what she’s seeing from Gorres, who is recovering from an off-season back injury.

“I think her back is feeling better and she’s gaining more confident with every game she plays,” Tolkinen said. “I think a light bulb is going off. She’s getting comfortable with our system I think and she’s being OK with making mistakes, because those are going to happen. You just have to move on and play ball.”

Park junior guard Carlie Williams filled the stat sheet as well, coming up with six points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals, while Annie Williams had seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

“We took a step back after losing those three games and challenged the kids to step up a little more,” Tolkinen said. “(Lamberty) doesn’t have a problem putting the team on her back, but she shouldn’t have to. There’s enough good players on our team that should’ve been contributing more than they were.”

Park took on Stillwater (8-14; 4-10 SEC) on the road Tuesday, after the Bulletin went to print. Next, the Wolfpack heads to Forest Lake to play the Rangers (17-5; 12-2 SEC). Park will then host Woodbury (6-15; 2-12 SEC) on Tuesday, Feb. 25 and close out the regular season against Hastings (2-18; 1-13 SEC) in Cottage Grove on Friday, Feb. 28.

“In the big scheme, we’re trying to prepare for that section tournament and getting back to that championship game,” Tolkinen said.

During the Wolfpack’s home game against Woodbury, the team will donate money to three community families who have been affected by cancer. Money was raised by the Park boys and girls basketball teams’ coaches versus cancer fundraiser.

-Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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