Close losses compound difficult week for St. Croix Central girls basketballBy the end of last week, the St. Croix Central girls basketball players were emotionally spent.
By the end of last week, the St. Croix Central girls basketball players were emotionally spent.
Three close losses and the death of friend and classmate Tyler Lathe made it a week the Panthers hope they never experience again.
The week began with the Panthers losing a close battle at Elmwood last Tuesday, 41-36. The following day came word of Lathe’s death.
The Panthers had to deal with that news and then play games the next two nights. They lost at Amery on Thursday 37-36. They played the third road game of the week at Spring Valley on Friday, suffering another agonizing loss, 54-50.
Central coach Luke Fritsche said the character of his team was evident during the loss at Amery. He said there were many tears shed on the bus ride to Amery. The Panthers carried their emotion onto the court, falling behind 17-2. Central then figured out Amery’s 1-3-1 trapping defense and began scoring.
After trailing 27-15 at halftime, the Panthers put together an incredible charge in the second half. Led by 11 points from Kayla Pabst and 10 points from Laura DeSmith, the Panthers cut the margin to one point with three minutes left. Central had several chances to take the lead, but couldn’t get any of their late shots to drop.
“That was probably as proud as I’ve been coaching a team here,” Fritsche said. “The way they supported each other against a good team, I was very proud of that.”
The Panthers had hoped to earn Dunn-St. Croix Conference wins in the games Tuesday and Friday, against teams with comparable records. The loss at Elmwood was difficult because the Panthers didn’t play their most consistent game.
“We’ve got to find girls who are going to show us energy,” Fritsche said, saying sophomore Lauren Moll was one of the players who performed well against Elmwood. “She was a big reason we came back against Elmwood. She played with a ton of fire.”
Central led 9-6 after the first quarter, but control slipped away from the Panthers. By the end of the third quarter the Panthers trailed 33-23. Pabst led the Panthers with 12 points and nine rebounds in the loss. McKenzy Johnson added eight points.
Friday was another game the Panthers had targeted, because Spring Valley hadn’t won a conference game to this point in the season. The first half was played about as evenly as possible, ending in a 21-21 tie. Then the Panthers crumbled in the third quarter, getting outscored 19-6.
The Panthers turned to full-court pressure in the fourth quarter and it got them back in contention. Led by Moll and Laura DeSmith, the Panthers stole the ball several times for quick transition scores. The Panthers outscored the Cards 23-14 in the fourth quarter, but still fell short.
One reason the Panthers struggled at times Friday was the loss of Pabst to an ankle injury midway through the first quarter. Pabst is not only the Panthers’ top post player, her athleticism is a big part of the team’s defense.
“Kayla is quite possibly the fastest girl on the team,” Fritsche said.
DeSmith led the Panthers with 19 points and Taylor Refsnider had her biggest offensive game of the season with 10 points. Johnson led the Panthers with seven rebounds and Refsnider contributed six rebounds.
The Panthers begin the second half of their D-SC schedule this Thursday with a home game against Glenwood City, a team they beat early in the season. The Panthers will also play at home at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, facing Ellsworth in a non-conference game. The Panthers hit the road next Tuesday for a game at Mondovi.