Panthers beat two conference champions
For the second straight season, the St. Croix Central girls basketball team bounced back from a season-opening loss to play extremely sharp ball.
The Panthers registered three wins last week, including two against defending conference championship teams. The week started with the Panthers playing a formidable Elk Mound team, the defending Dunn-St. Croix Conference champion. The Panthers were sharp in all aspects of the game, resulting in a 55-48 Central victory.
Two nights later, the Panthers hosted St. Croix Falls, a team that reached the Division 4 sectional tournament last season after winning the Lakeland Conference. Central was outstanding in winning its home opener, 55-34.
The third game of the week for the Panthers was against a young New Richmond team, which was playing its first game. The Panthers struck early and often, building a 16-0 lead on their way to a 59-23 victory.
Last week's wins came on the heels of a season-opening loss to Colfax. The Panthers knew they had to be better at both ends of the court, and they were. Elk Mound center Morgan Radtke came into last Tuesday's game averaging 21 points per game. The Panthers limited her to four points.
"We weren't going to get beat from the inside," Central coach Luke Fritsche said.
Offensively, the Panthers returned to what works best for them, attacking the rim. Led by seniors Mia Krogseng and Kalli Cress, the Panthers carried the action to the Mounders. Krogseng finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds and Cress scored 13 points. They combined to be 12-14 on free throws, drawing numerous fouls on their drives to the basket.
St. Croix Falls came into Thursday's game already having impressive wins over Prescott and Barron. The Saints simply couldn't compete with Central's athletic ability.
"Our transition game was really strong. We put them away early," Fritsche said.
By halftime, the Panthers had already amassed a 33-13 lead. Krogseng and Cress again led the offense, with Krogseng scoring 21 and Cress 10. Krogseng and Claire Frankiewicz finished with nine rebounds and Katherine Cottrell came off the bench to grab eight rebounds. Krogseng and Abby Widiker both tallied four assists and Cress had three steals.
The Panthers could do no wrong in Friday's game at New Richmond. While the 31 points in the first half was a healthy total, Fritsche was far more pleased with the defensive energy the Panthers showed. In fact, the Panthers turned the ball over 25 times, a total that didn't set well with the coaches.
"To be honest, we shouldn't have more than 10 turnovers," Fritsche said.
Krogseng scored 23 points to lead the Panthers Friday, with Frankiewicz scoring 11 points. Krogseng also contributed nine rebounds, five steals and three assists. Frankiewicz finished with six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
The Panthers will face a tough challenge when they face one of the most improved teams in the Middle Border Conference, playing at Prescott. The Panthers will host Durand in a non-conference game next Monday.