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St. Croix Central girls basketball earns fourth straight win

St. Croix Central’s Emma Landry (20) scores two of her 11 points in Friday’s win over Ellsworth.

Trailing at halftime at Ellsworth last Friday didn’t bother the St. Croix Central girls basketball team.

Central’s girls knew they could use their best weapon to turn the game back in their favor. That weapon, full-court pressure, worked as Central took charge of the game by outscoring Ellsworth 24-10 in the third quarter. Central kept a safe lead throughout the fourth quarter to win 48-38.

The win is the fourth straight for Central’s girls after they started the season 0-3.

Central was only able to use the press for bits of the first half because they were playing with a shortened bench and they had players dealing with foul trouble. Central had led 12-8 after the first quarter, but that’s when the foul situation flared up. When Ellsworth wasn’t facing pressure, the purple Panthers could get the ball to center Kelsey Betthauser, one of the leading scorers in the Middle Border Conference. She scored 13 points on Friday, most coming during the second quarter.

Central coach Luke Fritsche said the team’s defense against Betthauser was stellar, holding Betthauser five points below her season average.

“Our number one goal was to slow her down,” Fritsche said.

In the third quarter, the press brought life to Central’s play. With most of the quarter played in Central’s half of the court, the Panthers chose their shots wisely. That began with senior McKenzy Johnson, who scored a season-high 14 points.

Another reason the ball stayed in Central’s end of the court for long stretches was the team’s exceptional rebounding. Emma Landry led the team with 16 rebounds and Kayla Pabst and Lauren Moll combined for 16 more rebounds. A good share of those rebounds came at the offensive end of the court.

“When you’re getting extra looks every offensive possession, that’s a big deal,” Fritsche said.

Landry and Pabst both rank among the top three in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference rebounding leaders this season.

Central’s girls have also been responding to the coaches’ pleas to take the ball to the basket more often. It resulted in Central’s girls shooting 30 free throws in the game. They also had one of their most successful games shooting free throws, making 19-30 attempts.

Landry joined Johnson in double figures by scoring 11 points. Moll and Brooke Kopacz each scored seven points, and they shared the team lead in assists with four each.

The schedule gets busy for Central’s girls, with three conference games scheduled in the next six days. The Panthers play at Glenwood City on Thursday. That’s followed by a home game against Mondovi at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Panthers return to the road next Tuesday for a game at Elk Mound.

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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