Dave Campbell / AP Sports Writer, Published March 25 2010
Minnesota girls basketball: Parkers Prairie’s Noga is AP Player of Year
Noga helped lead the Parkers Prairie High School girls team to the state tournament for the first time in the program’s history. Along the way, she became Minnesota’s all-time leading rebounder with more than 1,700 for her career and finished third on the state’s all-time girls scoring list with more than 3,500 points.
Oh, and there’s one more honor. Noga was named Wednesday as the Associated Press Player of the Year for Minnesota, joined on the AP’s all-state team by junior Rachel Banham and senior Cassie Rochel of Lakeville North, junior Kayla Hirt of Bemidji, and freshman Rebekah Dahlman of Braham.
The Panthers fell just short of a perfect ending, losing to eventual champion Barnum in the semifinals and settling for third place in the Class 1A field with a 28-3 record. But the experience of going to state and feeling the buzz from the community in Parkers Prairie – a town of about 1,000 people roughly halfway between Moorhead and St. Cloud – was about as good as it can get.
“I’ve gone to watch the state tournament just about every year since I was born,” Noga said. “I kept telling myself, ‘I’ve got to get there before I graduate.’ It’s really nice how it all came together.”
When the Panthers left in the morning last week for the 2½-hour drive to Minneapolis, they were treated to the second of three mini-parades they enjoyed through town this month with fire trucks trumpeting their journey.
“People were working, so they came out of their businesses and started waving and we saw all kinds of signs in the windows,” said Noga, who averaged about 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals per game this season. “We had such great support.”
Everywhere they went.
“We filled our gym for every home game, and for most away games we had more fans than the team we were playing against,” said her father and coach, John Noga.
Even last Saturday morning, when the Panthers played in the anticlimactic third-place game after the semifinal defeat.
“You’d think people would go, ‘Ah, they lost. Let’s go do something else,’ ” John Noga said. “But the place was full.”
Basketball will continue for Noga in college, with a scholarship to play for the Gophers starting in the fall. She had interest from plenty of major programs, but never seriously considered leaving the state.
“I looked around, but it always seemed like I compared everything to Minnesota,” she said. “That’s where I wanted to be.”
Noga will probably play the “2” spot, or the traditional shooting guard position, in the Big Ten. For someone who’s 5-foot-10, the state’s all-time leading rebounding crown is quite the accomplishment.
“I just feel like if I’m not shooting the ball well, that’s just another opportunity to put two points on the board for our team,” she said. “You just have to want it and go after it.”