St. Croix Central girls basketball wins in championship style

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Girls rule at St. Croix Central.

The St. Croix Central girls basketball team continued the incredible run of success produced by female sports at Central in the 2017-18 school year by locking up a share of the Middle Border Conference championship. The Panthers sewed up the title share with a 59-36 win at Somerset last Thursday. The Panthers are 11-0 in the MBC and have three remaining chances to get the final victory that will give them undisputed ownership of the conference title.

This is the first conference championship in girls basketball for Central since the school moved to the MBC four years ago. Central's volleyball team earned its first MBC championship last fall and the Panther girls cross country team advanced to the WIAA state championships, placing sixth.

Thursday's win raises Central's overall record to 16-2 this season. Somerset had scored a school record 91 points in its previous game, so the Panthers knew they'd face a test in Thursday's game. The Panthers answered the challenge, dominating from the start. Within minutes the Panthers had a double-digit lead, leading 33-8 late in the first half.

Somerset then made a 10-0 run, but Central senior Mia Krogseng silenced any Somerset momentum by hitting a three-pointer from well beyond the arc in the final seconds of the half.

Central coach Luke Fritsche said the team shows up focused at the start of every game.

"They know the value of coming out to start a half strong, first and second half," Fritsche said.

Somerset made 18 three-pointers in its 91-point effort, but the Panthers weren't going to allow that to happen again. Instead, it was the Panthers who put on the tremendous outside shooting performance. Central hit 10 three-pointers in the game, while limiting Somerset to four of them. The success came from a wide array of sources. Krogseng and Kalli Cress are the Panthers' leading outside shooters and they both hit from the arc. But so did McKenna Johnson, Claire Moll and Kolbi Juen, showing the diversity of the Panthers' attack.

"It was exciting to flip the script on the three-pointers, knowing how well they shoot it," Fritsche said of outshooting the Spartans. "If we're going to make a deep run in the playoffs, that's the type of game we need offensively."

Krogseng was the hub of the success at Somerset. She ranks in the top five in the MBC in points, rebounds and assists. She was the same well-rounded player in this game, finishing with 20 points.

"Her passing is what sets her apart," Fritsche said. "She's a great teammate. She's always making the unselfish play."

Cress finished with 13 points, leaving her 19 points shy of 500 for her career.

There are three games remaining on the Panthers' regular season schedule. They will play at Ellsworth on Friday and at Spring Valley on Monday. The schedule ends with a home game on Thursday, Feb. 15, against New Richmond.