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St. Croix Central girls basketball ends regular season with one-sided win

It was a glorious end to the regular season for the St. Croix Central girls basketball team.

The Panthers scored 63 points for the second time in a week, as they rolled past Spring Valley 63-50 last Thursday. This was the final home game in the careers of the Panther seniors: Laura DeSmith, Arinn DiSalvo, Taylor Refsnider, Jessa Klinger, Casey VanDusartz and Kelly Harrington.

The 63 points tie the season high for the Panthers, matching their point total from their win over Pepin-Alma the previous Friday.

While the point total was impressive, Central's success in Thursday's game began with defense. Spring Valley was without its starting point guard and the Panthers pressed the Cards into flocks of turnovers.

"We wanted to make them play the entire length of the court," said Central coach Luke Fritsche. He said the Panthers were forcing Spring Valley's guards to dribble with their off hand and it produced turnovers that resulted in quick points.

The Panthers led 15-4 after the first quarter. An incredible defensive flurry by Klinger helped the Panthers put the game away in the second quarter.

Klinger started the flurry by scoring on a layup. She then stole the ball and went in for another layup. To cap the moment, Klinger stole the ball again, and went in for a third layup. Her incredible stretch raised the Panthers' lead from 14 to 20 points.

"I've never seen anything like it," Fritsche said. "It gave so much energy to the crowd and the girls."

By halftime the Panthers led 33-13. The coaches substituted liberally in the second half, rotating players in five at a time.

All 10 girls on the Panther roster scored in the game, which added to the joy the team was able to feel about the win.

Senior Taylor Refsnider paced the Panthers with 15 points. Freshman Emma Landry scored nine points and senior Arinn DiSalvo added eight points. All three of the leading scorers were able to get the ball in the paint against smaller defenders and consistently score off their opportunities.

The Panthers (6-16) ended the regular season by winning three of their final five games. The Panthers have switched to a more up-tempo style over the past month and it has been creating more scoring opportunities for the team. The Panthers hope that carries over to in the WIAA tournaments.

The Panthers were scheduled to begin action in the WIAA Division 3 regionals with a game at Spooner on Tuesday. Central is the 10th seed in the sectional tournament bracket and Spooner is the seventh seed. Spooner enters tournament play with a 6-13 record. The winner of Tuesday's game will play again this Friday, at Barron, which is the second seed in the bracket.