MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Park Center’s girls basketball team had never been to a state tournament before, but now they’re on the brink of a state title.
The Pirates will play Marshall for the 3A championship Saturday night at Williams Arena.
The team got that far thanks in large part to Cayla McMorris. When she started in the program as a freshman, Park Center’s conference record was 3-17.
“I think the bulk of it is on her,” said her coach, Chris VanderHyde. “She demands people to play to the high level that she knows they’re capable of playing.”
The Miss Basketball candidate is now a senior, and she’s the team’s only senior, leading a rotation that includes four freshmen.
“She has belief in every girl on the team and every young kid on the team,” VanderHyde said. “And I think that’s a big deal.”
Where Park Center is can be traced right back to a decision McMorris made when she was a freshman. She had two options: open enroll at a good basketball school, or waste her promising talent at struggling Park Center.
“I didn’t want to be like everybody else and, like, go to a Hopkins, where they have a bunch of transfers,” McMorris said. “I wanted to make a difference and to get other girls to stay, and that’s really what I did.”
That’s made winning all the more rewarding.
“I would say I’m on a mission,” she said. “It’s all business right now.”
Regardless of what happens Saturday, it will be McMorris’ final high school game. Then it’s off to play in college at Wisconsin, a program that hasn’t had a lot of success in recent years.
“Like coach Bobbie said at Wisconsin, she is a program changer,” VanderHyde said. “She changed Park Center’s program.”