After a tough loss on Tuesday night to Hastings in overtime, the Park boys' basketball team was determined to get a win in another non-conference game at St. Paul Como Park on Thursday night.
The Wolfpack started off strong and continued that rhythm all night as they earned a 78-66 win to put their record at 1-2 to start the season.
Similar to Tuesday night, there was a variety of scoring for Park as four players reached double digits on Thursday. Jayden Lane led the team with 23 points, while Ethan Townsend finished behind him with 19 points.
Jack Blumberg also had a strong game with 18 points and Evan Bearth rounded out the Wolfpack with 14 points.
The win against St. Paul Como Park is big for the Wolfpack because it will generate some confidence and momentum as they begin their conference season next week.
The first conference game for Park will be at home on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. as the Wolfpack takes on crosstown rival East Ridge. The Raptors are ranked fifth in the Class AAAA rankings, according to Minnesota Basketball News.
The Park High School gym was filled with overtime finishes and strong rivalry games on Tuesday night as Park and Hastings faced off for an early non-conference game.
The varsity game started a little later because the junior varsity game ended in an overtime win for the Wolfpack, but that excitement carried into the varsity game. The two teams went back-and-forth, not allowing a big lead for the majority of the game.
That tight of a game led to a four-minute overtime period where it continued to be close, but ultimately Hastings finished with the 99-98 win over Park. Even though it was a hard loss, the Wolfpack players and coaches had many takeaways heading into the conference season.
"It's going to be a tough game to get over, but our players did a great job throughout the entire night," said head coach Mike Weah. "Obviously there are a few things that we need to focus on since it's early in the season, but I like what I saw from this team tonight."
Before the season started, Weah and a couple players described this year's team as fast and skilled. They expected to see a fast-paced team and multiple players being able to score on any possession.
Weah and the Park fans saw plenty of that fast play on Tuesday night as the Wolfpack utilized fast breaks to take a small lead early on in the game. The biggest aspect Weah saw from the team was the ability to find the open man and showing strong passing skills with all five players on the court.
"We've focused on using all five players to score on each possession and I saw that quite a bit tonight," Weah said. "We want many players reaching double digits in scoring instead of one player scoring the majority of the points."
The variety of scoring was shown on Tuesday night as five players reached double digits in points for Park. Ethan Townsend had an unbelievable performance as the leader for the Wolfpack with 30 points.
Jack Blumberg was behind him with 21 points, while Jayden Lane and Jake Kuemmel each scored 15 points. Evan Bearth was the final player in double digits with 11 points.
The Wolfpack had a 43-39 lead at the half and led 88-86 with two seconds left in the game, but Hastings' Devon Haraldson drew a foul to go to the free-throw line. He was able to swish both shots, which made it an 88-88 game and an overtime period was coming up next.
The Raiders took the momentum first in overtime and had an early 97-93 lead, but Park came down the court on its next possession and connected on a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game. Hastings kept a 99-96 lead with only five seconds left in overtime, so the Raiders decided to foul Park.
That put the Wolfpack on the line with only two shots and no way to tie the game up. Park made it a 99-98 game after making both free throws, but couldn't foul Hastings on the next possession and the Raiders were able to hold onto the ball until the final horn.
"These close games will help us later on this season," Weah said. "When it comes to rivalries, you want to play your best game and I think we played a really good game. It's just that Hastings played a really good game too.
"I just loved seeing the crowd that came out for this game and seeing that student section packed."
Park is sitting at 0-2 to start the season, but Weah said he's not worried about the early record because he's seeing so much improvement from each player. He's looking forward to seeing what happens these next couple weeks as the Wolfpack prepares for the conference season.
The Wolfpack will hit the road on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. as they continue their non-conference schedule at St. Paul Como Park. Then, Park will start its conference season on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. as the Wolfpack hosts East Ridge.