Basketball: Panthers 4-1, getting stronger

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The suspense was taken out of last Thursday's game almost immediately by the St. Croix Central boys basketball team.

The Panthers improved to 4-1 for the season with a home non-conference win against Elk Mound, 47-36.

If you got to this game a few minutes late, you missed the best part. The Panthers were red-hot at the start and within two minutes, they already had a double-digit lead. The lead grew as large as 17 points in the first half, but hovered in the 10-12 point range through most of the night.

The only thing Central coach Zach Turpin could find to critique in the game is that the Panthers didn't keep building on the early lead. He credited the team's defense for this win.

"Our defense is definitely ahead of our offense. Effort is the biggest thing. Their attention to detail on defense has been incredible," Turpin said.

Turpin said one player who doesn't get the credit he deserves for his defense is leading scorer Peyton Nogal.

"It's hard when you're the focal point on offense. Peyton's energy level (this season) on defense has been so much stronger," Turpin said.

Nogal and Austin Kopacz led the Panthers' fast start in Thursday's game. Nogal scored 14 points in the first half and Kopacz scored nine points. It seems that there's been a different player stepping up to be a major contributor in the scoring column in every game. This time it was Kopacz, who finished with 11 points. Nogal finished with 20 points.

The Panthers also were strengthened with the addition of another player last week. Junior Zak Jourdeans was issued a waiver by the WIAA after transferring from Baldwin-Woodville. Jourdeans was one of the leading scorers for the Blackhawks last season. He's the son of former B-W coach Duane Jourdeans, who is a St. Croix Central graduate.

Turpin said the coaches are still experimenting to see where Jourdeans will fit into the Panthers' rotation. At 6-3, he offers height, something that Panthers don't possess in a great amount this season.

The holiday break offers a good challenge for the Panthers. They will play in the La Crosse Aquinas Classic this Thursday and Friday. The Panthers draw two tough opponents, facing Prairie du Chien on Thursday and the host team on Friday. This is a fun team outing for the Panthers and the coaches find a fun experience for the team each year. Turpin said the coaches have made plans to take the team curling on this year's trip to La Crosse.