Park reaches section semis, finishes 14-14
After holding off a hard-charging Minneapolis Washburn, 61-59, in the final home game for St. Louis Park (14-14) on March 8, it was on to Osseo to face top-seed Wayzata (25-3) in a Section 6AAAA semifinal.
Wayzata ended the Orioles season by a 73-46 final score as Park struggled to convert shots into points by a 39-14 margin in the second half after entering the break down by two points.
Coming into the game, Park coach Dave Breitenbucher said the key would be to make the Trojans play more defense, knowing when to offensively attack in transition or pull up to execute plays in the half court sets to take advantage of the situation.
“The play was to be who we are and score in transition and reverse the basketball and make them play defense and not take quick shots because we knew what they did offensively,” he said. “We were right there in the first half but the game just got away from us in the second half.”
Part of that separation is a result of some red-hot shooting by Wayzata which made 9-of-20 3-pointers while the Orioles struggled to covert from the outside, making 2-of-21 attempts.
Junior guard Cire Mayfield was the only Park player in double digits with 17 points. Seniors Mykal Howard and Ryan Domres were each limited to six points in their final game for the orange and black.
Breitenbucher noted Mayfield’s performance really stood out in both section games.
“I’m so happy to have him in our program,” the coach said. “He was totally engaged and you could just tell from the moment we walked in the gym for both games that he was ready to go. He didn’t want the season to end.
“He has the ball in his hands the most and so he’s running the show and did a nice job of keeping our turnovers down and followed the game plan of pushing the pace in transition and if it wasn’t there, slowing it down.”
The Trojans won the Jan. 10 meeting at Park 73-56 with 16 points from Mayfield and 10 points each from Joey Whitlock and Josiah Morrow. Whitlock also had four rebounds and three steals and Jack Lynch blocked two shots.
In the section opener, Park jumped to a 30-22 halftime lead over the Millers and needed every ounce of that lead to stay ahead of the visitors.
“We played a really good game overall,” Orioles coach Dave Breitenbucher said as they played a section game at home for the first time in seven seasons. “We got a little tight at the end there but credit Washburn for pushing us at the end there, it was a little too close for comfort but we deserved that win and I’m proud of the way we played.”
Mayfield led the way with 14 point and Doherty had nine points to give a rowdy Orioles student section one more reason to storm the floor to join in the celebration with the team at the SLP logo afterward.
“That meant a lot to our program to get that win and I’m just proud of our guys and the seniors did a nice job of staying together all year.”
Orioles guards, Howard and Mayfield continued strong play to start the second half followed by Doherty with a spin move down low to get a reverse lay up followed on the opposite end by another Howard scoop-and-score to make it 42-32 for the Orioles.
The Millers cut the led to 61-59 with 28 seconds left but a turnover by the visitors with six seconds left helped send the Park seniors off with a win for the final time on their home floor.
Despite six seniors on this squad, Breitenbucher said returning three junior starters next fall should equate to another successful season with Mayfield, Doherty and Joey Whitlock serving as the core group of starters coming into the 2017-18 season.
“One strength this year was our depth but three juniors got the majority of playing time and next year will be different because we will not be as deep but what is encouraging is having three junior starters back so next year could be a really special year with all those guys back,” Breitenbucher said. “All three of those guys put a lot of time into their game.”
One area he anticipates them to focus collectively on as a program over the spring, summer and fall, in addition to open gym time, is making improvements in the weight room to fill in two open starting spots.
“We’re not the biggest guys and I’m not sure they understand what a little more weight will do for them,” the coach said about taking advantage of the strength and conditioning program in place at St. Louis Park High School.
Contact Jason Olson at [email protected]