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Parkers native the pride of Otter Tail County

Sari Noga of Parkers Praire is a starter and in her senior season with the Minnesota Gophers women's basketball team. She has been a key defensive player the past two years, and in 2013 Noga was named Minnesota Women's Basketball Defensive Player of the Year. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

Anytime a high school graduate from Otter Tail County plays athletics for a Division I college, that person becomes the pride of the entire county. Such is the case with Sari Noga of Parkers Prairie, a senior starter with the University of Minnesota Gopher women’s basketball team.

“I love making Otter Tail County proud,” said Noga. “I’m beyond proud to have come from there.”

Noga, who played with Parkers Prairie against other high schools in Otter Tail County, contributes both offensively and defensively for the Gophers. Minnesota needs her on the court, and that’s a reason she’s averaged over 33 minutes of playing time the past two years.

She played all 40 minutes of the basketball game on Feb. 1, when the Gophers defeated Michigan, on the road.

“These past four years here at the university have gone by quickly,” said Noga after the home game with Iowa on Wednesday evening, Jan. 29. “Coming from Parkers Prairie, this has been a great experience playing for the Gopher women’s basketball team.”

Many people from the Parkers Prairie area and other areas of Otter Tail County have seen her play at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

Noga played high school basketball in Parkers Prairie for her father, John, varsity girls coach for the Panthers. She won all-state honors and led her team to a third-place finish in the 2010 Minnesota High School State Girls Basketball Tournament.

As a senior in Parkers Prairie, the 5-foot 10-inch Noga averaged 24.5 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. She was selected as Minnesota’s Associated Press Player of the Year in 2010.

She played in 21 games for the Gopher women as a freshman, 30 games as a sophomore and started all 32 basketball games for Minnesota as a junior. She’s started every game for the Gophers thus far, in 2013-14.

Last year Noga was named Minnesota Women’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year. She also was named to the Academic All-Big Ten Team in 2013.

This year, through Feb. 1, she scored 171 points for a 7.4 points per game average. Her total rebounds for 2013-14 stood at 98, for an average of 4.3 rebounds per game. She’s had 24 steals, second best on this year’s Gopher women’s squad.

Noga appreciates the support of her father, John, her mother, Nancy, older brother Kellen and younger sister Micaela, a senior guard for this year’s Panther high school girls team.

At the University of Minnesota, Noga is majoring in mortuary science.

“My interest in this field goes back to my studies of forensics at Parkers Prairie High School,” she said.

Noga has a high aptitude for the sciences and also has a special interest in human psychology (during bereavement), both necessary in the field of mortuary science.

The next game for the Gopher women’s basketball team is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, at Williams Arena on the U of M campus in Minneapolis. The opponent will be Illinois, another member of the Big Ten Conference.

Story by Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent