For St. Croix Central boys basketball, a week of having to grow up too quicklyHow does a young team go on, following the death of their senior captain?
How does a young team go on, following the death of their senior captain?
That was the unimaginable burden for the St. Croix Central boys basketball team, following the death of senior captain Tyler Lathe last Wednesday.
Panther coach Zach Turpin gave his players the option on whether they wanted to play Thursday’s game at Spring Valley. The boys decided to play, and they put up a good fight, losing to the Cardinals 47-40.
Turpin said he was impressed with the effort the Panthers were able to generate in the game.
“These kids are too young to have to deal with this,” said Turpin, who was one of Lathe’s pallbearers. “They gave their all. They are high character kids.”
One bright spot from Thursday was the first win of the season by the Panther C team. Lathe’s younger brother, Jacob, was one of the leading scorers for the Panthers in that win.
Central’s varsity played a strong first half at Spring Valley, trailing 21-20 at the break. The third quarter was the Panthers’ undoing. Spring Valley outscored the Panthers 17-3 in that quarter. The Panthers had a particularly tough time stopping Spring Valley guard Ben Becker, who finished the game with 27 points, including five three-pointers.
Senior Zach Lewis has stepped up to be an offensive leader for the Panthers, finishing with 17 points Thursday. D.J. Holland finished with nine points and Connor Lyksett scored six points.
The Panthers concluded their challenging week by hosting the Glenwood City boys on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers were competitive for stretches in this game, but lost to the Hilltoppers 51-32.
Freshman Doug Cottrell led the Panthers with 10 points in the loss and sophomore Jason Matteson scored nine points. Turpin said the Panthers will have to lean more heavily on younger players for the rest of the season.
To make matters worse, during Thursday’s game the Panthers lost senior co-captain Brandon Booth to a sprained ankle. Booth was on crutches Saturday, but was already trying to convince Turpin that he’d be ready to play this week.
“That’s the character of our kids, they want to be out there. He feels awful that he can’t be out there,” Turpin said.
Turpin said the Hammond-Roberts community has rallied around the team and many other teams from the area have reached out to help the Panthers through this difficult time.
“They (the players) have been very appreciative of all the support we’ve received,” Turpin said.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Panthers. On Friday, the Panthers play at undefeated Elk Mound, the Dunn-St. Croix Conference leader. The Panthers play at home next Tuesday, drawing one of the top teams from the Middle Border Conference, Somerset.