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St. Croix Central boys basketball eliminated by Baldwin-Woodville

The trip to Baldwin-Woodville was short, and the Blackhawks wasted no time in letting the St. Croix Central boys basketball team know that it wouldn't be making any more trips in the WIAA playoffs.

Baldwin-Woodville scored early and often to put away the Panthers 60-35 in the opening round of the WIAA Division 3 regional tournament last Tuesday.

The Panthers finish the season with a 2-21 record.

It was a difficult season for the Panthers. They started the season with very little varsity experience and lost two of their top players in the early stages of the season.

Through the difficulties and the rest of the season, the Panthers continued to grow. With a roster that was half or more underclassmen, the Panthers were forced to learn on the fly. Central coach Zach Turpin said he saw considerable growth from his team.

"That experience will help us in the long run," Turpin said. "With a good summer there's a lot of room for improvement. There's a pretty high ceiling on some of these kids."

The Panthers knew they'd be in for an uphill battle at Baldwin. The Blackhawks were one of the top teams in the area until they were hit by a rash of injuries in the middle of the season. The Blackhawks are healthy again and they looked sharp against the Panthers.

Turpin said the Panthers didn't play as tough defensively as they needed to against B-W's guards. That resulted in the Blackhawks hitting more than 50 percent of their shots. With that red-hot shooting, the Blackhawks were able to score 21 points in each of the first two quarters, leading 42-16 at halftime.

In the second half the Panthers were able to play evenly with the Blackhawks. Turpin said seniors Brandon Sheffler and Mitch Ditlefsen came off the bench to play well for the Panthers in the second half.

Junior D.J. Holland was Central's main offensive threat in the game. Holland scored 13 points, including nine of the team's 16 points in the first half.

This game was much different from the first time Central and B-W met. In that game, the B-W press overwhelmed the Panther guards. Turpin said the Panthers, led by Holland and point guard Tony Berg, did a much better job of handling the Blackhawks' pressure this time around.