They have experienced the setting, felt the pressure, and faced the opponent.
As such, there will be no secrets for the Park Center girls basketball team heading into this week’s start to the Class 3A, Section 3 tournament.
What there will be is an opportunity to once again qualify for what would be the school’s girls state basketball appearance.
That is, if the Pirates can take survive long enough to earn one more meeting with the opponent that has ended each of Park Center’s last three seasons.
“The girls want that chance,” said head coach Patty Sorensen. “They kind of what it to be DeLaSalle, just because of how it has ended here the last three years.”
The last two of those have come in the Class 3A, Section 3 final, where if another meeting is to transpire this postseason, would be where the two teams would play again.
The Islanders (22-4) were named the No. 1 seed for the tournament. Park Center (16-10) was seeded second.
No. 3 Spring Lake Park (15-11), No. 4 St. Anthony Village (17-9), No. 5 Minneapolis Roosevelt (17-7), No. 6 Totino-Grace (8-18), No. 7 Blake (10-16) and No. 8 Fridley (1-24) are also in the field.
Each of the top-four seeded teams will host a quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, meaning Park Center gets Blake in the opener.
The Pirates head into the game after splitting last week with Andover and Blaine, which followed the girls 80-50 victory over Elk River Feb. 15 – a performance Sorensen was her team’s best of the year.
“If we play like we did against Elk River, we write our own story for the rest of the year,” Sorensen said. “That is what we are hoping to replicate.”
The blueprint could be telling should the Pirates get back into a section final match-up with DeLaSalle.
For much of the season, Sorensen and her staff have been preaching toughness – both mentally and physically – in all phases. The Islanders live off that mantra.
“One of the things that we’ve talked about that we have to do, and I think we’ve done a much better job of this year, is being able to play with the teams that are playing very physical and aggressive, and being able to manage that both physically and mentally,” Sorensen said. “I’ve been very pleased with our progress in that aspect.”
The progress Park Center has made in its three meetings with DeLaSalle the last three year’s is also encouraging.
The first game came in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, when the Islanders won by nearly 20 points. A year later, the section title game, the Pirates trimmed the final deficit to 13. Last year, Park Center led at the half before eventually succumbing late in a 68-58 defeat.
“Maybe this it the year we take that next step against them,” said Sorensen. “We have to match their physicality, but we need to play our game too. We need to just play the game and not worry about what is going on with the refs or anything else. We just have to control our emotions, play with our intensity, and match the physical part. If we do that, I like our chances.”
Should the two teams meet again in the final, the game would be played at 6 p.m. Friday, March 8 at Anoka High School.
The section semifinals will be held at 6 and 7:45 p.m. March 5 at Maple Grove High School.
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]