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St. Croix Central boys basketball learning the value of patience

St. Croix Central’s Josh Freyholtz (12) showed that he can be a scoring threat from the high post or along the baseline against Somerset.

Facing two opponents from the Middle Border Conference on back-to-back nights forced the St. Croix Central boys basketball team to up its game.

The progression started on Thursday, when the Panthers lost to Osceola 47-30. Where the Panthers really made a leap forward was on Friday, when they put up a smart, patient effort at Somerset. The Panthers kept the game close until the end, losing 54-43.

In these two games the Panthers showed they are learning how badly turnovers have been hurting them. They cut down their turnovers to a season-low six against Osceola. That carried into Friday, when their patience with the ball had an effect on the usually fast-paced Spartans.

Somerset had more turnovers in the first half than the Panthers. The Panthers trailed 8-6 after a quarter and 29-22 at halftime, but the Panthers looked like a team that was playing under control.

Central coach Zach Turpin said he didn’t make any special point of slowing the game down against Somerset.

“We preach taking care of the ball and the kids were really patient,” Turpin said. “That’s probably the best we’ve played all year.”

The Panthers have the makings of a strong post game. John Spaeth is becoming a factor. He scored 14 points and his size and strength make him a large obstacle that fills the lane and defense. Josh Albright is becoming a workable backup for Spaeth.

Their development has allowed Josh Freyholtz and Doug Cottrell to get out from under the basket. Freyholtz was one of the Panthers’ best weapons against Somerset. He made several nice baseline moves and also looked comfortable at the high post. He finished with 12 points.

With the post players becoming more of a scoring threat, it could help take pressure off the Panther guards. The Panthers have been facing full-court pressure. With a mix of Evan Nielsen, Tony Berg, Jason Matteson and D.J. Holland, the Panthers have guards capable of breaking presses.

Against Osceola, the Panthers were competitive for a half, trailing 22-15 at the break. Osceola pulled away by outscoring the Panthers 16-7 in the third quarter.

Turpin said the Panthers generated quality shots against Osceola, but they couldn’t knock down the shots. The Panthers hit 25 percent of their shots from the field (12-48). Matteson led the Panthers with 10 points against Osceola and Spaeth scored six points.

“I’m pleased with the shots we’re taking,” Turpin said. “We took a step in the right direction (in these games). There’s a lot of potential we haven’t quite tapped into yet.”

The Panthers play their final game of 2013 this Friday when they travel to Boyceville. The Panthers get a lengthy holiday break before facing St. Croix Falls on Jan. 3.

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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