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St. Croix Central girls basketball gives Colfax a battle

For many years, St. Croix Central girls basketball trips to Colfax meant carnage and demoralization.

This year’s Panther trip to Colfax took on an entirely different tone. Instead of receiving a one-sided beating, the Panther girls gave the defending Division 4 state champions a battle. The margin was still 12-14 points late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter the Vikings were able to pull away slightly, winning 56-34.

Central’s girls sent a message right away that they weren’t going to back down. Led by exceptional team defense, Central clogged Colfax’s offensive plans, with the first quarter ending in a 6-6 tie.

“We talked a lot about help defense going into the game,” said Central coach Luke Fritsche. “Every time (Colfax) tried to drive, we had a girl step up.”

Colfax had to use full-court pressure throughout the game to get any advantage. The Panthers were forced into a couple turnovers in the second quarter and Colfax hit several outside shots. By halftime, the Vikings led 32-18.

The game could have easily swirled out of control on the Panthers. Instead, they came back with a charge in the third quarter that had the Vikings scrambling. The Panthers were able to get the lead down to 12 points several times. Leading the Panther brigade was junior guard Lauren Moll, who hit a cluster of three three-pointers during the quarter.

Colfax outscored the Panthers 15-14 in the third quarter, but it was the first time in years Central went into the fourth quarter at Colfax still feeling they were in the game.

Fritsche credited all the girls with excellent defensive intensity. He said Moll and senior center Kayla Pabst had key assignments, guarding Colfax’s leading scorers, and they both gave exemplary efforts. Central’s stats listed Colfax with 20 turnovers, something the Panthers haven’t been able to accomplish in many years against the Vikings.

Moll led the Panthers with nine points and McKenzy Johnson scored seven points. Pabst and Emma Landry each produced six rebounds.

While he isn’t a fan of “moral victories,” Fritsche said this game helped the Panthers to understand that they are able to compete at a higher level this season.

“We talked about doing foundational things to compete with a team like Colfax. In that sense, the game was a success,” said Fritsche.

Having to start the season against two of the top programs in western Wisconsin in Colfax and Baldwin-Woodville was a brutal test for the Panthers. Fritsche said the team came through the gauntlet of games unscarred.

“I think the girls are confident, which is all I can ask after playing Baldwin-Woodville and Colfax,” Fritsche said.

The Panthers will play in front of their crowd this Friday, facing Elmwood in Central’s Parents Night game. The Panthers will also be in action next Tuesday, playing a non-conference game at Osceola.

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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