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Park Center's 'fountain of youth' splashes for AAA title

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What fans witnessed in the class AAA championship at Williams Arena between Park Center and Marshall Saturday night was never seen before and will likely never be seen again.

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Park Center made only 4 of 33 three-point shots, but they forced 30 turnovers against Marshall, eventually slugging a 73-71 win in triple overtime to win the first state championship of any kind in basketball. Making Park Center's (27-5) win more remarkable was surviving all three overtimes without McKenna DuBois and Cayla McMorris, who both fouled out in regulation, leaving a group of mostly freshmen on the floor. Under those circumstances, most people in attendance thought Park Center's chances of winning were extinguished.

Just getting to overtime seemed impossible, with Marshall (30-2) content to let Park Center fire off threes with impunity, waiting to rebound the inordinate amount of misses from that range. Marshall built a 52-43 lead with 5:08 left in the second half, but Park Center began to penetrate an impervious zone. Pirate freshman guard Danielle Schaub hit a runner with two seconds remaining to tie the score at 60, setting up the harrowing triple-overtime sequence.

Aggressive pressure defense gave the Pirates a clutch play in the second overtime, with Schaub making a steal and layup to tie the score at 67.

In the third overtime, with the score tied at 69, freshman center Mikayla Hayes gave the Pirates their first lead since the start of the second half, drawing a foul while making a layup. Park Center would later break a 71-71 tie with two free throws, and their stingy defense kept Marshall from mounting a final shot.

The Pirates scored 32 points off turnovers, only giving up 8 to the Tigers.

Freshman guard Ann Simonet led Park Center with 26 points and five steals. McMorris, who will play at Wisconsin next season, scored 21 points, ending her high school career above the 2,000 milestone. Hayes finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Kenzie Beekman led Marshall with 20 points and eight rebounds. Hannah Bennett had 16 points and five assists.

Park Center's girls basketball team had never reached the state tournament round until this year. Several of Marshall's athletes were hoping for a double-dip; nine players on the basketball team competed on the class AA state championship volleyball team this fall.

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