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Girls' Basketball: Raptors defeat Park in low-scoring game

Molly Wenner of the Wolfpack leads the break down the floor late in the second half. Wenner led Park with nine points. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 4
East Ridge senior center Kelen Kenol goes up for two of her game-high 17 points in the second half Friday in East Ridge's 36-25 win at Park. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 4
East Ridge forward Meaghan Rapp goes up for two points in the first half against the Park Wolfpack Friday at Cottage Grove. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 4
East Ridge star guard Noelle Tomes tries to get past the defense of Park's Riley Perryman in the first half. Perryman and teammates held Tomes to just four points, but the Raptors won 36-25. (Photo by John Molene)4 / 4

East Ridge’s 36-25 win at Park Friday night left almost everybody who watched with a different opinion.

East Ridge coach Glen Wurm raged about rough play and the officiating, or lack of the same.

Park coach Stephanie Tolkinen wondered why her team couldn’t make hit shots.

East Ridge stars Noelle Tomes and Mariah Sexe combined for just eight points, four apiece. Yet, the Raptors still won.

And perhaps craziest of all, Park had scored all of 15 points with seven minutes to play and was still very much in the game.

Defensively, however, Park had no answer for East Ridge senior center Kelen Kenol, who torched the Wolfpack for 17 points – the only player on either team to break double figures – and her inside play led the way to a Raptors win.

“I definitely think it was the teamwork with my team,” Kenol said. “We stressed in practice that if we moved the ball and execute, that we’re going to get open shots. And fortunately, when we did that I was the one on the back end scoring, but it all came from my team.”

It was East Ridge’s first win at Park in girls’ basketball.

Park had swept the season series five straight years starting in 2010, then split with the Raptors last season, each team winning on its home court.

East Ridge’s zone defense and inside strength gave the Wolfpack fits the entire game.

“I thought we did a great job of rebounding the basketball, particularly in the second half,” Wurm said. “And they hit a few shots. They’re a good enough team that they’re going to knock down some shots. But I thought the girls really competed well when the shot went up specifically in finding people and getting block outs and then coming away with that ball.”

The eighth-ranked Raptors improved to 10-3 overall and to 4-1 in the Suburban East Conference. East Ridge moved to within half a game of league-leading Cretin-Derham Hall (9-2, 5-1). Because of the weather postponement of the first game earlier this season, those two teams will meet twice between Jan. 26 and Jan. 31.

Park slipped to 6-8 on the season and 2-4 overall.

It was a gritty effort by the Wolfpack, if not pretty. Park’s players played tremendous defense despite a seeming lid on the basket on the other end.

“Their zone bothered us. We didn’t make shots,” Tolkinen said. “They were good shots that we got, I thought. Our bigs got in foul trouble which kind of affected us a little bit early. I thought we recovered OK. You think that when you hold the top two players on their team to eight points, to eight points total combined, that you should win the game. When you hold them to less than 40 points, you should win the game. But when we can’t shoot, you know.”

East Ridge matched the Wolfpack in defensive intensity, and the inside scoring of Kenol proved to be the difference.

A combination of tough East Ridge defense and ice-cold Park shooting left the Raptors up 19-7 at the break.

“I think it really helped when we went in zone,” East Ridge's Emma Stoehr said about the defense. “It kind of contested them from going to the basket. And we kind of played together as a team, kept talking and knew where each other was going to go.”

Park junior guard Molly Wenner drained a three-point field goal to cut the East Ridge lead to 19-10 on the first play of the second half. But Park’s Delaney Young picked up her third foul shortly afterward and as she went to the bench, so did Park’s inside offensive game.

Kenol, meanwhile, scored on three straight trips down the floor to power the Raptors to a 26-10 lead.

Park finally warmed up offensively in the closing minutes and cut the lead to 32-25 with a minute left, but that was a close as the Wolfpack got.

Wenner led Park with nine points. Taylor Johnson scored seven and Riley Perryman five.

Following the game, Wurm was fuming over the officiating.

“To our credit, I thought we did a nice job keeping our composure in a game, in a game that should never be allowed to be played like that,” Wurm added. “That’s unfair to both teams. We’re lucky that somebody didn’t get hurt.”

East Ridge is scheduled to host Woodbury (8-3, 4-2) Tuesday. Woodbury defeated Stillwater Friday, the Royals’ third straight victory.

Park plays at Roseville (11-2, 4-2) Tuesday.