St. Croix Central girls basketball adjusts its style, beats EllsworthIt took one game for the St. Croix Central girls basketball team to decide it needed to change its style.
It took one game for the St. Croix Central girls basketball team to decide it needed to change its style.
The Panthers played their first game without junior center Kayla Pabst last Thursday and it was a disaster. The Panthers didn’t reach double figures in points until the fourth quarter in a 35-16 loss to Glenwood City.
That loss made the Panthers realize they needed to change their style. With Pabst in the lineup, they had one of the top post players in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference. Unfortunately, Pabst tore the ACL in her knee in the Panthers’ loss to Spring Valley the previous game.
In the locker room after Thursday’s loss, the Panthers and Coach Luke Fritsche held a brain-storming session. They decided that their team quickness was their best asset, so they’d use it as the focal point of their attack. It worked out well, with the Panthers scoring a 50-41 win over Ellsworth on Saturday.
Central was a completely different team on Saturday. The Panthers hounded Ellsworth with full-court pressure, they used the fastbreak whenever possible and they used rapid-fire passing to create shots in the set offense.
It took a bit of time for Central’s girls to adjust to the changes. Ellsworth led 11-6 after the first quarter. Central switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense in the second quarter and everything fell into place. Central outscored Ellsworth 22-10 in the second quarter to lead 28-21 at halftime. Central started the second half with a tremendous burst of energy that built the lead up to double digits. That included stealing the ball from Ellsworth before it could get the ball across halfcourt on its first three possessions of the second half.
The attacking style on offense forced Ellsworth into numerous fouls. Central’s girls ended up shooting 34 free throws, making 18 of them.
That was led by senior guard Laura DeSmith. She led Central with 18 points, including sinking 8-12 free throws. DeSmith and Brooke Kopacz combined for nine steals to lead the Panther defense.
Kopacz was the new addition to the starting lineup following Pabst’s injury. The Panthers had to move senior Taylor Refsnider from the perimeter to the post to replace Pabst. Refsnider led the Panthers with six rebounds.
The fastbreaks led the Panthers to one of their best shooting games of the year. They made 13-29 two-point attempts and they were 2-3 from three-point range. McKenzy Johnson hit both those three-pointers, including one in the final minutes that locked up the win.
The win over Ellsworth was a drastic change from the Panthers’ performance against Glenwood City. Without Pabst in the post, the Panthers spent the first half aimlessly passing the ball around the perimeter, with Glenwood City eventually forcing a number of turnovers. The Panthers had a better idea of where they wanted to get the ball in the second half, but then they couldn’t get the shots to fall.
The biggest ovation the Panthers got all night was when Lauren Moll sank all three of her free throws with 5:48 left in the game to put the Panthers into double figures for the night.
“Glenwood City played very good defense. They have improved quite a bit since we beat them,” Fritsche said. Central beat Glenwood City 47-42 in the opening game of the season. Since then, Glenwood City has gone 9-4.
Central’s girls draw a tough assignment this Friday when they play at Elk Mound. The Panthers will play a non-conference game next Tuesday, getting a visit from the Alma-Pepin team. Pepin was a long-time member of the Dunn-St. Croix Conference before forming a co-op team with Alma.