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St. Croix Central boys basketball puts up a good fight for three quarters

St. Croix Central guard Brandon Booth slashed to the basket between a pair of St. Croix Falls defenders in last Tuesday's game.

For three quarters last Tuesday, the St. Croix Central boys basketball team gave every appearance of a team that had all the pieces in place.

In the fourth quarter, the Panthers' lack of experience caught up with them. St. Croix Falls opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run that the Panthers found insurmountable. The Saints defeated the Panthers 58-45.

The first three periods were played at an entertaining, crisp pace by two enthused teams. St. Croix Falls possessed more varsity experience, but the Panthers played a persistent style that produced well at the offensive end for three quarters.

That production was led by junior Damani Jones. Jones drove hard to the basket and showed a nice finishing touch in leading the Panthers with 18 points.

"He definitely does have some skill," said second year SCC coach Zach Turpin. "He's been very patient and does a good job of getting other people involved in the offense."

Jones wasn't the only scoring threat. Jason Matteson and D.J. Holland scored nine points each. Senior Tyler Lathe was saddled with foul trouble throughout the game and was held to four points.

In Central's opening game of the season, the Panthers performed well in the defensive end, but never found their footing on offense. Tuesday's game was the polar opposite. Central played a patient, efficient offense that produced good looks at the basket. Defensively, the Panthers were a little scattered in trying to defend the larger Saints team.

Turpin said that was partly due to the coaches decision to use a full-court trap defense for the first time this season. The trap worked with some effectiveness, but the Panthers had trouble when they transitioned back to the man-to-man defense. The Panthers were overly aggressive and they were getting beaten on dribble drives steadily through the game.

"We let too many guys (drive) into the paint," Turpin said. "We tried to put on too much pressure at times."

The Saints took advantage of that pressure in the fourth quarter, scoring a handful of quick hoops in the first three minutes of the quarter. As the Saints built the lead, the Panthers rushed on offense, trying to match the Saints' scores. Instead, the Panthers' rushed shots were turned into more scoring chances by the Saints.

The Panthers resume their schedule this Friday, hosting Elk Mound in a Dunn-St. Croix Conference clash. The Panthers will play a non-conference game next Tuesday, when they travel to Osceola.