Prairie Farm's impressive girls basketball season continued with victories over rival Northwood and non-conference opponent New Auburn over the last week.
The Panthers are now 12-2 on the season and have a firm grip on second place in the Central Lakeland at 6-2. The girls' only two losses came at the hands of the undefeated, league champion Clear Lake Warriors (17-0, 8-0).
In latest statewide rankings, Clear Lake was listed second for Div. 5, while Prairie Farm sat at number 10. The Panthers, who were ranked ninth a few weeks ago, are possibly making the program's first appearances in statewide polls.
Prairie Farm 45, Northwood 33
With a 45-33 road victory over Northwood on Thursday, Jan. 30, Prairie Farm took solid control of second place in the Central.
Northwood (12-3, 5-3) has also posted a nice season. Prairie Farm's win at Minong gave the Evergreens just their third loss of the season – two of which came to the Panthers.
"In our previous meeting at Prairie Farm, the girls pulled out a 46-35 hard fought victory," Prairie Farm coach Dean Kahl said. "I new going into this game that we were going to have to work for everything we got.
"Coach Schultz and the Evergreens like to slow the game down and they make you run your half court offense. We like to speed the game up, with pressure defense leading to transition offense, but credit the Evergreens for not turning the ball over for most of the first half."
Makaylin Christenson scored 8 first half points and the Panthers used a late surge to take a 22-21 lead into halftime.
"We struggled during the first half on the offensive end," Kahl said. "We were down 19-14, but we were able to turn them over late, leading to an 8-2 run to end the half."
The Panthers played superb defense in the second half, made six of nine free throws and used a 23-12 edge to secure the victory.
"We really played well during the second half on the defensive end," the coach said. "Our pressure half court defense kept the Evergreens from getting anything going. Offensively, we moved the ball better, getting the ball inside. Sydney Junkans had a very nice second half, scoring 8 points and helping us extend the lead. Sydney ended with a team-high 12 points.
"Avery Hansen had a monster night on the defensive end, leading the team with eight rebounds and five steals. She was a spark plug all night."
Christensen finished with 10 points for the Panthers, as did both Emme Golembiewski and Cassidy Coons for the Evergreens.
Prairie Farm 70, New Auburn 27
Hosting New Auburn (6-11) on Monday night, Feb. 3, the Panthers pressured the Trojans throughout the first half, creating turnovers and rebounding to create second and even third scoring chances on the offensive end.
New Auburn made a few shots when they managed open looks, but the game was all but over before halftime. The Panthers led 43-10 midway through a 70-27 victory.
"We wasted little time taking control," coach Kahl said. "New Auburn wanted to slow the pace of the game down, but from the start I challenged the girls to play with relentless pressure to speed the game up. We did just that.
"The girls played great during the first half, not only forcing several Trojan turnovers but also turning the turnovers into quick baskets on the other end."
The Panthers had three girls score in double figures, while Autumn Palmer led the Trojans with 10 points.
"Eryn Bates had one of her best games of the year, not only scoring a game-high 21 points but also defensively with six steals and five rebounds," the coach said of the junior. "Eryn has been working hard all year and tonight it paid off.
"I thought all the girls had a tough mindset. We were very aggressive on the defensive end, collecting 24 steals for the game."
"During the second half, we were able to work on a few defensive sets to help us down the road when the tournament starts."
Makaylin Christenson and Marnie Kahl added 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the victors.