By Bob San
There is a saying in sports, “That’s why you play the game.”
Osseo’s stunning 67-47 home win over conference leader and No. 6 Centennial last Thursday was a perfect example. The Cougars came into the game having just knocked off No. 1 and defending state champ Hopkins 69-60 two nights ago. Two weeks ago at the holiday tournament, Hopkins routed Osseo 88-42. So on paper, there was no way the Orioles could hang with Centennial. But the Orioles played their best game of the season and handed Centennial its first loss.
“Hopkins showed us how much work we have to do if we expect to contend again this year,” Osseo coach John Rieser said. “We worked hard in practice and began to show signs of coming out of our slump.”
The Orioles ended their four-game losing streak with a 64-51 win over Armstrong Jan. 8, then followed up with the upset win over Centennial.
“We played an outstanding overall game,” Rieser said. “The team has been working hard in practice and it was nice to see that hard work translate to performance on the floor.”
The Orioles led only 28-26 at halftime, but they came out and out-scored Centennial 39-21 in the second half.
“At halftime we talked about the opportunity that this game provided us, we talked about continuing to work on our transition game and our team defense,” Rieser said. “We also talked about owning the first 5 minutes of the second half, which I think we did. The kids really came out with some fire in their bellies and worked hard on both ends of the floor.”
Seniors Janay Morton and Phillis Webb, who were honored before the game for reaching the 1000-point milestone, led Osseo with 19 and 15 points, respectively. Junior Ayo Porte would have to be considered for player of the game as she scored 14 points and held Centennial guard Daizjah Morris to 6 points in an excellent defensive effort. Junior point guard Madi Malone played her best game of the season, both offensively and defensively, scoring 9 points and showing some of the leadership the coaches have been expecting from her. Senior forward Belinda Barfknecht also contributed 7 points, along with some strong defensive play.
“The coaching staff was very proud of the total team effort that produced this win,” Rieser said. “The kids on the bench were tremendous, adding lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. Some of our substitute players are really starting to come on strong, even with limited playing time. As a staff we are encouraged by their contributions, which allows us to play the up-tempo type of game that we have been working on. Centennial is a very well coached team and they played hard the entire night. This game is just another example of how tough the NWSC is, you really never know what to expect, other than a tough opponent that is working just as hard as you are. We are happy with the result, but as assistant coach Eric Ruska always asks the girls, “Are we satisfied?” We want to use this game as a springboard to future successes, which everyone in the Osseo program knows is not going to be easy.”
The win improved Osseo to 8-2 in the conference while Centennial is 8-1.
The Orioles next host Coon Rapids Friday, Jan. 18.
Contact Bob San at [email protected]