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Panthers' scoring bursts snow under Somerset

St. Croix Central senior Abby Edelman (22) fires a shot from the perimeter during the Panthers' 64-31 win over Somerset last Thursday. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

When the St. Croix Central girls basketball team is going right, the Panthers can score in bursts.

That's what the Panthers did in last Thursday's home-court win over Somerset. The Panthers went on a 10-0 run late in the first half and they started the second half with a 17-0 rally that put Somerset away. Central won 64-31 to improve to 5-0 in the Middle Border Conference. The Panthers ended the week with an 8-2 overall record.

The Panthers hadn't played in two weeks, so there was a bit of rust in the first half. But in the eight practices the team held over the holidays, they installed a new surprise that was unveiled Thursday. The Panthers showed off a new full-court press that produced great results.

Central coach Luke Fritsche said this press isn't designed to produce steals right away, but is designed to wear down opponents. The steals didn't start happening until late in the first half, and the Panthers stole the ball numerous times during the second half.

One of the factors that weighed heavily in Central's favor in this game was the depth and experience the Panthers have among their post players. The leader among the post players Thursday was junior Claire Frankiewicz. She played with a fierceness, especially in battling for rebounds. She finished with a game-high 22 points.

"She had a great game," Fritsche said. "When she's at her best she's pulling down a lot of offensive rebounds. She really got after it."

The depth in the post for the Panthers includes junior Katherine Cottrell. Seniors Mia Krogseng and Abby Edelman and junior Abby Widiker can play in the post or on the perimeter. They often flashed to the high post in this game, setting up passes to Frankiewicz who was working under the basket to create passing lanes. Krogseng was able to score from anywhere in the offensive half of the court, finishing with 14 points. Central's strength in the middle showed in rebounding. The Panthers finished with 42 boards, led by 14 from Krogseng and nine from Frankiewicz. Krogseng had a complete game, posting seven assists and six steals.

In past seasons, opponents have been able to successfully shut down the Panther attack with zone defenses. That's no longer the case. This was the second time the Panthers have faced a zone defense. In those games, the Panthers have had their biggest scoring outputs of the season, with 64 against Somerset and 60 against Prescott. Fritsche said the progress made by the post players is a key to the success against the zone. The Panthers can score from the post, which forces the perimeter defenders to sink into the paint area. That leaves Central's perimeter shooters with unobstructed looks at the hoop.

The press is another weapon in the Panthers' arsenal. It makes them further dangerous, adding their ability to be a quick-strike team.

"We're the type of team that can be very explosive in short periods of time," Fritsche said.

The next three Panther games will all be played at home, starting with Thursday's battle against Ellsworth. Saturday will be the annual "Coaches Versus Cancer" day, with the Panthers playing a double-header against Northwestern. The girls game will begin at 2 p.m., with the boys starting at 3:45 p.m. The Panthers start next week by hosting Boyceville in a non-conference game Tuesday, Jan. 16.

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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