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Three straight wins for St. Croix Central girls basketball

This will be one of the most festive holiday breaks in years for the St. Croix Central girls basketball team.

After starting the season 0-3, the Panthers roared back to win their final three games in December. That included a convincing 51-28 win at Osceola last Tuesday and a hard-fought 58-45 homecourt win over Spring Valley last Thursday.

Last Tuesday’s win was the first against Osceola in the five years that Luke Fritsche has been coaching the team. The Panthers won the game with a gem of a defensive effort, limiting the Chieftains to nine points in the first half. By halftime the Panthers had built a 30-9 lead.

One of the secrets behind the Panthers’ improvement in defense is the team’s commitment to rebounding. The team has been limiting its opponents to one shot per possession in most instances during the three-game win streak. In Tuesday’s win the Panthers totaled 49 rebounds. Senior Kayla Pabst and junior Lauren Moll both had double-doubles in the game. Pabst produced 14 rebounds and 10 points while Moll netted 12 points and 10 rebounds.

“Kayla and Emma (Landry) rebound like crazy,” said Fritsche. “And Lauren rebounds well for a guard.”

One of the keys to slowing down Osceola was the Panthers’ defense against Chieftain point guard Alexis Boissy. Fritsche said Moll and Brooke Kopacz split that responsibility, with excellent results.

Moll led the team with three steals and Kopacz’s four assists were tops on the team.

On Thursday the Panthers met up with another of the Dunn-St. Croix Conference teams showing significant improvement since last season, Spring Valley. The game was close throughout. The Panthers led 26-23 at halftime and it wasn’t until the final minutes that the margin reached double digits.

Each team had a talented scorer step to the forefront in the game. For Central it was Landry, for Spring Valley it was senior point guard Emily Boison.

Boison scored 22 points, hitting shots no matter how fiercely the Panthers defended her.

Landry was unstoppable, hitting 11-17 shots from the floor to generate a career-high 27 points. She had her third double-double in four games, finishing with 10 rebounds. Landry also led the team with five steals.

Fritsche said the Panthers’ unselfish play led to Landry’s big night.

“Her teammates were seeing she was playing well and they got her the ball,” he said.

Landry was joined in double figures in rebounds by Pabst, who hauled down 13 in the win. Fritsche said Pabst has been working on her footwork and patience, to maintain better control of rebounds and to make good outlet passes.

Moll and McKenzy Johnson shared the team lead with four assists and Johnson contributed 10 points.

This was the team’s third straight game scoring more than 50 points. Fritsche said he researched the team’s past seven years. He said 45 points is the team’s magic number. He said in those years, the Panthers have won 90 percent of the games where they’ve scored more than 45 points.

The team statistic that stood out to Fritsche from Thursday’s win was the Panthers’ seven turnovers, which may be the lowest total of his coaching tenure.

Fritsche said the plan for the holiday break is to enjoy the team’s winning streak and continue doing what has made the team successful. That includes getting plenty of shooting practice, including free throws. Another primary focus will be ball handling.

“We’re all about taking care of the ball,” he said.

The Panthers resume their schedule on Jan. 3, when they play a non-conference game at Ellsworth.

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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