Girls basketball: Vikings aim to be in the mix after rebuilding season
The Pelican Rapids girls basketball team went 76-5 over a three-year span. After a rebuilding stint last year, the Vikings hope to be in the mix in 2022-23.
PELICAN RAPIDS – The Pelican Rapids girls basketball team had a three-year run from 2018-21, where it went 76-5 with two Section 8-2A titles. After a rebuilding season last winter, the Vikings are hopeful to contend in a level Section 8-2A field with a hard-working group of leaders.
Head coach Brian Korf has an experienced pair of post players to help lead Pelican Rapids against a competitive section and Heart O’Lakes Conference schedule.
“We have some starters back from last year,” Korf said. “Kelsey Isaman is a returning post from last year. Ellie Welch is a post that and can play outside. Morgan Korf is our point guard. We lost two great seniors in Tori Stephenson and Sophia Paulson. They were great individuals. It’s hard to replace that leadership. We need to find our roles in the first few weeks and months, so we’re peaking at the right time. We have a lot of girls returning from last year, and we’re really excited about that. We want to continue building off of last season.”
The Vikings finished 14-11 in 2021-22 with a section record of 9-7. They were the seventh-seeded team in the Section 8-2A tournament and beat 10th-seeded Park Rapids 55-45 in the first round. Pelican Rapids eventually lost to second-seeded Menahga 59-47, one game short of the final four. The Vikings also finished in fourth place in the Heart O’Lakes Conference with a 5-6 record.
Pelican Rapids and 14 other teams in Section 8-2A are thankful for the departure of Fergus Falls’ Ellie Colbeck, who led the Otters to a Class 2A state runner-up finish at the state tournament. She’s playing at the Division I level for South Dakota State University.
“No Ellie Colbeck is a good thing for us. We can all be Jackrabbit fans now,” Korf said with a laugh. “We have to stay healthy, right? It’s going to come down to that and who’s playing well at the right time in March.”
“I think all the teams in the section this year are pretty strong,” Welch said. “I think it comes down to finishing. The teams that can finish games out the best are going to do really well.”
Korf expects the competition to be more balanced, with more teams having a chance to make a run.
“If you look at last year’s teams, I think teams like Crookston, Barnesville, Hawley and Perham, maybe even Breckendrige – they’re really good,” Korf said. “It’s going to be a competitive section. Our goal is to work hard every day and get better. We aren’t focused on results. We don’t pay much attention to wins and losses. We’re focused on getting better and improving as a team.”
Welch, a senior, echoed Korf’s day-by-day approach. She wants to add another banner in the gym but knows she and her teammates must put in the work to get there.
“We just want to take things one game at a time and not get too ahead of anything,” Welch said. “We love to compete. We love the competition. I’m looking forward to being in those close games. We’re going to gain experience by learning from our mistakes game to game. We want to work hard every practice and get better and have a good mindset.”
Welch said one of the biggest crutches the Vikings lean on is their love for being on the court together.
“One of our strengths is our chemistry,” Welch said. “We love to work hard and get after it all the time. It’s made practice a lot of fun. I think it makes it really fun to go into those close games and come out with wins together.”
A three-year run with a 93.8 winning percentage might not happen again in program history. However, with the help of a committed group of players, it set the bar for effort and dedication for years to come.
“Experience matters,” Korf said. “I think the girls have established a culture of work ethic. These girls have followed in the footsteps of the girls before them. A lot of credit goes to the girls that helped establish this culture.”