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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Panthers’ triple threat thwarts Wrens

Wrenshall senior Delaney Kittel scores in front of South Ridge senior Krystal Karppinen during Thursday night's basketball game. The Panthers defeated the Wrens 65-44. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com1 / 5
Wrenshall senior Shana Laveau shoots while being guarded by South Ridge senior Kourtney Palmi during Thursday night's basketball game. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com2 / 5
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WRENSHALL—Looking at the girls basketball scoring tally following South Ridge’s 65-44 win over Wrenshall last Thursday, it was obvious the Panthers’ point production stemmed from a triple threat attack on — and off — the court.

Junior RyAnna Anvid and seniors Krystal Karppinen and Lindsey Janke tallied 52 of South Ridge’s 65 points — including 24 of 26 and all but one basket in the second half — but not only are they scorers, but they’re all cousins, too.

Such a case is not uncommon in the small Polar League school located in the township of Culver. All three girls have had past siblings, relatives or parents involved in the current and former AlBrook athletic programs throughout the years.

In fact, growing up surrounded by sports is something Anvid, Karppinen and Janke all said they have been taught and enjoyed over time. That’s apparent seeing the trio play hoops.

Although all three are multisport athletes — Anvid is also in track, and both Karppinen and Janke play volleyball and softball — it’s currently basketball season and the three teenagers have their game going.

Anvid, also an avid rebounder, had a game-high 22 points last week. Not to be outdone, the fleet-footed Karppinen got 20 and Janke, back from a knee injury last year, added 10. Senior Gracelynn Otis’ jumper was the only non-trio score of the second half, while they also keyed a 17-0 run in the first.

Leading 39-21 by halftime, the 9-4 Panthers then cruised.

Coach Lisa Johnson didn’t call her trio the big three, as her well-balanced squad has several options at times, but did comment on how much her set of playmakers mean to them.

“These three girls are fun,” she said. “They are coachable, willing to do what you ask and put in the time. All three play hard, are team players and have a good sense of humor.”

“I think we really connect and play well together. We’re there to back each other up on and off the court,” Karppinen added. “I hate to think that we only have a couple months of playing. We want to make the most of this last year we get.”

That’s surely been the scene so far, as the Panthers have been racking up the victories lately. Just in the prior seven days, they’ve won four of five games. The team has a good bench that gels well and is efficient when needed. Rotate that around their talented triple threat and a run in March’s Section 7A playoffs is possible.

“I think any team has a chance, we just have to keep plugging away,” Johnson said. “Our team plays as a team. Sometimes they give up shots they know they should have taken but they’re just so unselfish. It’s just fun to watch.”

Wrenshall, meanwhile, at 6-8, has been fun to watch, too, putting up their winningest season since the 2008 state tournament team and we still have all of February remaining.

Led by senior Delaney Kittel’s 20 points and senior Shana Laveau’s 18, the Wrens weren’t short of shot attempts last week, yet many simply didn’t want to fall for the hosts.

“Sometimes that lid is on the rim,” coach Sheri Nelson said, noting it was their lowest shooting percentage all season.

Despite defeat, Nelson, always so positive, stayed upbeat.

“I love these girls,” she said. “Just to see their success feels so good. I tell them not to quit, and never to give up — and just fight until that final buzzer goes off. And they do.”

Speaking of the final buzzer, South Ridge’s trio of 17-year-olds isn’t looking forward to the end of the season. Anvid, a center, lives just a mile from the school, while both Janke, a forward, and Karppinen, a guard, grew up several miles away. They’re related through blood, but watching them play hoops, maybe basketball, too.

“I enjoy playing with them, it’s the best,” Anvid said.

“It’s definitely something I’ll remember,” added Janke.

“I’ll never forget it,” said Karppinen. “I love these girls.”