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Apple Valley knocks Park girls out

Park's Riley Perryman splits a pair of Apple Valley defenders in the second half Saturday in a Section 3AAA semifinal game at Concordia University. Perryman scored 15 points to lead the Wolfpack. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Park senior guard Taylor Johnson soars to the basket early in the second half against Apple Valley Saturday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Chloe Venegas of the Wolfpack drives to the basket under the close defense of an Apple Valley defender Saturday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

ST. PAUL — Park got the shot it wanted — a drive to the basket to tie the game. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack the shot didn't go in.

Park senior guard Chloe Venegas drove to the basket for a potential game-tying basket in the final seconds, but her shot didn't drop. The Wolfpack got the rebound in a wild scramble after the miss but couldn't get off another attempt before the final buzzer.

Third-seed Apple Valley advances after knocking off second-seeded Park in a 35-33 thriller Saturday in a Section 3AAAA girls' basketball semifinal played at Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University in St. Paul.

"When we saw the defense all go to the other side with it and she took it and that was the right play," Park coach Stephanie Tolkinen said of Venegas' final shot. "I said we don't need a three. It was just unfortunate the layup didn't go in. And then we got the O-board and just didn't get the last shot off."

Park ended its season with a 19-9 record.

Top-seeded Eastview (28-0) drilled fourth-seeded Hastings 61-39 in the first game Saturday at Concordia. Apple Valley (17-11) will play the top-ranked Eastview team (28-0) Wednesday at 7 p.m., back at Concordia, for the section championship and a state tournament berth.

"The kids played hard, they left everything on the court," Tolkinen said. "It was a very good game. They came out and did exactly what we expected them to do. The low-scoring game didn't bother me a bit. We worked the ball around. We did some good things against them considering they've got a 6-2 and a 6-3 player and we've got 5-11 as our biggest. We just had kids that played super hard. I thought we did a fantastic job."

It was a tough way to bow out for the five Park seniors, four of which have been starting for the Wolfpack since they were sophomores.

"They've been the heart of this team for the past three years," Tolkinen said. "And they've developed and they've grown a greater love for this game they've helped me just to enjoy coaching so much. ... Their work ethic is — nobody could much the work ethic. They're wonderful kids. They've great kids and the culture that they have helped develop in our girls' basketball program is very noticeable. And our underclassmen have big shoes to fill."

Park led 19-11 at the half, but Apple Valley steadily chipped away at the Wolfpack lead in the second period.

The Eagles caught the Wolfpack at 27-all with 10:40 to play before Molly Wenner's three-point field goal regained the lead for Park at 30-27 with 5:25 to play. But that was the last field goal the Wolfpack would make.

Apple Valley tied the game again at 32-all then gained the lead for good on a pair of free throws with 1:52 left and a 34-32 lead. Venegas made one of two free throws with 28 seconds left to cut it to 34-33.

Apple Valley then made one of two free throws for a three-point lead with 23 second left. The Wolfpack called time out and tried to set up a drive to the basket for Taylor Johnson. But Johnson was guarded and Venegas had a clear lane to the basket and drove with about five seconds left.

Riley Perryman led Park with 15 points in her final game for the Wolfpack. Molly Wenner had six, Johnson five, Delaney Young four and Venegas three.

Park had beaten Apple Valley 58-44 in the second game of the season. But the Eagles were a much better team this time around.