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Panthers know how to deal with bad start

St. Croix Central senior guard Kalli Cress (4) attempts to drive the baseline in the Panthers' loss at Colfax last Tuesday. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

It's one of the benefits of having seasoned players filling your roster.

The St. Croix Central girls basketball team knew it played a clunker in its season opener last Tuesday. Panther coach Luke Fritsche said the girls knew they didn't play well, but also understand that this was just one game within what the Panthers are hoping is a very long season.

Tuesday's game was touted as a game between two teams with sectional aspirations, with Central facing Dunn-St. Croix Conference power Colfax. The Panthers started tentatively, falling behind 11-0. Their play was spotty the rest of the night, losing at Colfax 49-35.

There was a definite sense of disappointment among the Panthers over their showing. The Panthers were settling for perimeter shots and weren't taking advantage of height mismatches that worked in their favor.

"We need to play tougher," Fritsche said bluntly. "When we're playing well, we're a physical team."

This game was eerily similar to last season's opener, when the Panthers also had hopes of giving Colfax a battle in the season opener. The Panthers lost that game 56-52, but came away feeling they'd missed a chance for a victory. They followed up last season's loss to Colfax with a distinct upturn in their play that led to six straight wins. Fritsche is hoping to see the same type of improvement after this season's opening loss.

The Central coaches thought the team's game plan would work against Colfax. But by being content with passing the ball around the perimeter, and not looking to attack, the Panther offense made it easy for Colfax to maintain its lead. The Panthers kept the margin at 8-10 for most of the first half after the slow start, trailing 25-13 at halftime.

In the second half the Panthers were able to get senior Mia Krogseng free for a few looks and she ended with 14 points. But the Panthers were never able to get within threatening distance of the Vikings.

This game gave several younger Panthers a chance to get worked into the varsity rotation. While the nerves showed for some, others were up to the challenge. One was junior Abby Widiker, who finished with a team-high six steals. She also contributed five points, hitting 2-3 shots, and blocked two Colfax shots.

One issue for the Panthers has been having everyone available for practices. Three girls were sick during the first week of practice and several others dealt with injuries coming off fall sports. And this week, four of the girls are on a school trip to Germany. They'll return just before the Panthers' next game, which will be played next Monday at Elk Mound.

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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