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Panther girls in toughest stretch of schedule

St. Croix Central's Shaylyn Lyksett (40) gave the Panthers a defensive presence in the post against Osceola.

A critical showdown with Boyceville awaits the St. Croix Central girls basketball team this Thursday.

The Panthers get to host Thursday's game, which will cap the most difficult stretch the Panthers have faced in their schedule this season.

Central and Boyceville are currently tied in third place in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference standings with 4-2 records. Mondovi and Colfax, who are both unbeaten in conference play, stand above them.

Central's girls are currently 6-5 overall. The Panthers are coming off Friday's game against Colfax, where the Panthers played one of their best halves of the past decade against the Vikings. Central trailed by one point late in the second quarter and was still within reach at halftime, trailing 24-17.

The second half was like a bomb going off. Colfax opened the half by banking in a three-pointer, then getting a steal for a layup. Nothing short of the final buzzer could stop the carnage. Colfax outscored the Panthers 28-3 in the second half to bury Central 52-20.

This was as drastic a change in fortunes as you'll see for a team in two halves. Central coach Luke Fritsche said the Panthers "were doing all kinds of things" well in the first half.

"We came out with a lot of energy and it lasted the whole half," Fritsche said.

This is what makes Colfax a threat to go to the state tournament every year.

"You work so hard to contain them. They run their offense so well," Fritsche said, comparing the effect to a needle meeting a balloon.

A major issue for the Panthers in the second half was breaking the press. Time and time again, Colfax was able to force turnovers that the Vikings immediately turned into points.

Ashley Adkins played an inspired first half to lead the Panthers, including hitting three three-point shots.

In both of Central's games last week, they held down the opponent's leading scorer, only to end up burned by the supporting cast.

That happened last Tuesday when Central lost to Osceola 56-36. The Panthers limited Osceola center Paige Garriga to nine points, her lowest point total in a year. But the rest of the Chieftain girls were able to take up the scoring slack. The same happened with Colfax, where Viking leading scorer Jenni Gust was limited to nine points.

Adkins led the Panthers with 10 points against Osceola, including three three-pointers. Taylor Refsnider scored eight points, all in the second half. Nikki Brooks finished with seven points and Laura DeSmith with six points.

After facing Boyceville on Thursday, the Panthers play a pair of road games next week. They will be at Elmwood next Tuesday and at Spring Valley two days later to start the second half of their conference schedule.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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