Pirates advance to section semis

Sports Editor

The Park Center boys basketball team has rebounded from a four-game losing streak from Jan. 24 to Feb. 6, to enter the Section 5AAAA playoffs as one of the state’s hottest teams.

Park Center’s freshman center Dain Dainja completes a shot from the post during Park Center’s 91-55 win over Spring Lake Park March 8. (Photo by Bill Jones)
Park Center’s freshman center Dain Dainja completes a shot from the post during Park Center’s 91-55 win over Spring Lake Park March 8. (Photo by Bill Jones)

While he would have liked to see his team play better in some areas, Park Center head boys basketball coach James Ware believes his team’s struggles boiled down to the quality of the competition.

“We had a very tough stretch of playing Champlin Park, Maple Grove, Osseo and Armstrong, all really good teams,” Ware said. “We take a lot of pride in our program and losing hurts, so when you drop some games it is hard to bounce back sometimes for us because we put a high premium on playing well and winning.

“Our schedule lightened up and we were able to win eight games in a row.”

The Pirates ended the regular season with a 20-6 record.

Park Center was able to extend its winning streak into the section playoffs with a 91-55 win over Spring Lake Park March 8.

“We played well, got off to a good start, an 18-2 start and they came roaring back,” Ware said. “I think it was 15 or so around half, and we really extended the lead in the second half, so we played well.

“We had six guys in double figures, almost seven. Anytime you have balanced scoring and multiple guys can score in double figures on any given night, that is definitely a sign of a good team.”

Having multiple players scoring in double figures is something the Pirates didn’t have last year, as they depended on point guard Losini Kamara to provide the bulk of the scoring.

“[Losini being a pure point guard] makes us a lot more dangerous than we were last year,” Ware said. “Teams in the past were able to key in on him and it was hard for us to score in other areas, but now when he can really focus on running the offense and making sure other guys get shots, it makes it a lot easier on him, for sure.”

The win over Spring Lake Park set the Pirates up for a game against Osseo, a team the Pirates have already played twice, in the semifinal round. Park Center won the first battle 112-91 Dec. 13, before falling 82-53 Jan. 31.

Despite the results from the latest contest, Ware said his team has put that game behind it and is solely focused on the upcoming contest.

“We’ve had probably about five days to prepare, so we’re just focusing on us and making sure we’re mentally right and physically right,” Ware said. “We’re watching the film of what happened last game and going through their stuff and getting us ready to go.”

Park Center played Osseo in its Section 5AAAA semifinal game March 14.

Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.