The undefeated No. 10AA Pelican Rapids Vikings came out fast on both ends of the floor and opened with a 14-0 run culminating in a big 62-32 girls basketball victory over Barnesville in Pelican Rapids Friday, Jan. 24.
“We came out with good energy and hit some big shots right away and they missed a few,” Vikings head coach Brian Korf said.
Neither team found the twine in the opening two minutes but a pair of free throws from junior Anna Stephenson started the Vikings’ offensive engine.
Senior guard Abby Syverson drained a three from the top of the key moments later to put Pelican up 12-0 and Stephenson scored a follow-up field goal to complete the 14-0 run.
Barnesville freshman Sydney Strand and sophomore Lexi Bolgrean stopped the Trojan scoring drought six minutes into the first half, but the Vikings were off and running.
Barnesville struggled to make shots but that was caused more by the relentless defending of Pelican Rapids. The Vikings were diving all over the floor after loose balls, getting hands on the ball and in passing lanes and stuffed up the lane making it difficult for Trojan ball handlers on every inch of the floor.
“We work on that a lot, team defense,” senior point guard Maddie Guler said.
Guler was at the front of the defensive pressure creating chaos in the backcourt and using exceptional ball-handling skills to turn that into smooth transitions offensively.
“We like to get man-to-man full court and half court,” said Korf. “We like to get after it. That’s kind of the key to offense is defense creates energy on offense. I feel like the girls rebounded well and ran the court well. We hit open shots right away and that helps.”
Junior Greta Tollefson and sophomore Karina Torres were strong in the paint on both ends. The duo combined for 28 points, a game-high 15 from Tollefson and 13 for Torres to lead the Vikings offense.
Both players worked their way to the free throw line with four minutes left in the half putting Pelican up big 23-6.
Field goals by Torres, Chloe Paulson, Ryley Paulson and a three in the final minute by Tollefson capped a 10-3 run late and the Vikings held Barnesville to single digits going to the half up 33-9.
Pelican’s team speed is a big weapon and their focus on defending never allowed the Trojans to get in the game.
Barnesville is a very young team with no seniors and only three juniors. In the first meeting between the two teams in Barnesville, the Trojans held the Vikings to their lowest scoring total this season in a 38-24 Pelican win.
“They’re good,” said Korf. “They’re young and learning and going to be a good team in the future.”
As the game wore on in the second half, even great Barnesville plays went the Vikings way. A huge shot block by Trojan sophomore Lauren Halverson ended up right in the hands of Pelican junior guard Vanassa Booth, who promptly drained a deuce from 15-feet.
Pelican stretched the lead past 30 points midway through the second half causing Korf to pull his starters.
The Vikings improved to 17-0 and have won 43 of the past 45 games. The two teams, Hawley and Ada-Borup, who have accounted for the two losses are coming up in the next fortnight but neither Korf nor his players were willing to look ahead to those matchups.
“One game at a time,” said Guler. “Our goals are the same as they were in the past, conference champs, get to the section game, play together as a team and win.”
The only game either Guler or Korf would talk about is the next one Monday, Jan. 27 at home against Thief River Falls.
“That’s going to be a game we’re going to have to be ready for,” said Korf. “They took D-G-F to double overtime. We’re going to rest up this weekend and get after it on Monday.”
Barnesville suffered a fourth consecutive loss after reeling off five straight wins to fall to 9-9 overall.
Pelican Rapids improved to 8-0 in Heart O’ Lakes Conference play and hold a one-game advantage on Hawley (13-3, 7-1). That cushion is from the closest game the Vikings have played this season a 49-48 win in the Hawley gym on Dec. 17. The Nuggets will be in Pelican Rapids Thursday, Jan. 30 for the rematch.
No. 10AA Pelican Rapids 62 Barnesville 32
BAR 9 23 - 32
PEL 33 29 - 62
BAR - Emily Bredman 6, Emily Smith 6, Kim Maesse 6, Lauren Halverson 5, Olivia Sorenson 4, Lexi Bolgrean 3, Sydney Strand 2.
PEL - Greta Tollefson 15, Karina Torres 13, Anna Stephenson 7, Chloe Paulson 7, Abby Syverson 6, Ryley Paulson 4, Sophia Paulson 3, Ellie Welch 3, Vanassa Booth 2, Mia Stewart 2.