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St. Croix Central girls encouraged by opening basketball win at Glenwood City

There's something about a team that lets its play do the talking.

The St. Croix Central girls basketball team did that in their season opener against Glenwood City last Tuesday.

The Panthers used their performance to say "we're ready."

After going through growing pains last year, the Panthers bring back a squad deep in seasoned players. That depth carried the Panthers to a 47-42 win at Glenwood City.

The Panthers suffered through a difficult season last year, but it toughened the girls for this season. With the numerous injuries suffered last year, many girls received substantial playing time. The Panthers are carrying 11 girls on the varsity roster and Coach Luke Fritsche said he's comfortable using any of them in a game. Nine of the girls received steady playing time in the win at Glenwood City.

That depth gives the Panthers plenty of options. They'll press more than in the past, because they have the depth to rotate in fresh players without having a dropoff in talent.

"It's probably the deepest team we've had," Fritsche said.

The team's quickness showed at both ends of the court Tuesday. The Panthers set a goal of forcing 20 turnovers and getting 20 free throws in the game. They easily surpassed both marks. The Panthers stole the ball 17 times, plus numerous other turnovers by the Toppers. The Panthers shot 31 free throws.

The Panthers used a starting lineup of Laura DeSmith, McKenzy Johnson, Taylor Refsnider, Arinn DiSalvo and Kayla Pabst against Glenwood City. Fritsche said, on any night, any of the five could be the team's leading scorer. Johnson had that honor at Glenwood City, scoring 16 points, which including going 3-7 from three-point range.

DeSmith played an outstanding floor game as the Panther point guard. She stole the ball eight times, scored 11 points and led the team with four assists.

Pabst led the Panthers with nine rebounds, drawing glowing praise from her coach.

"Kayla has really improved. Kayla's not only big, she's strong and athletic. She'll be a matchup problem for most teams," Fritsche said.

Opening the Dunn-St. Croix Conference schedule with a win was important because nothing comes easy in the D-SC. Defending conference champion Colfax is the pre-season top ranked Division 4 team in the state. Fritsche said Elk Mound, Mondovi and Boyceville will also be in the fight for spots at the top of the standings.

The Panthers will face one of those top contenders this Thursday when they host Mondovi. The Panthers will also play at home next Tuesday, when Elk Mound's girls visit.