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Panthers earn home playoff game

By receiving the eighth seed in the WIAA Division 3 girls basketball regional tournament bracket, the St. Croix Central girls get to open tournament play on their home court.

The Panthers will open tournaments on Tuesday, March 4, in a home game against Northwestern. Central is the eighth seed and Northwestern is the ninth seed among the teams in the regional. The winner of Tuesday’s game will be back in action on Friday, March 7.  They will play at Baldwin-Woodville, the top seed in the regional tournament.

Central started this week with a 7-11 record and a 4-9 Dunn-St. Croix Conference record. The Panthers are coming off a 51-29 loss to undefeated DSC leader Colfax.

While the final score might make look like this was one-sided, but the Panthers were competitive into this game into the fourth quarter.

Colfax led 31-14 at halftime, but Central opened the second half with a 12-2 charge that got them back into contention. But Colfax’s strong blend of talent was able to hit two three-pointers to cool off Central’s charge.

The Panthers knew they’d need to get the ball to post players Emma Landry and Kayla Pabst to contend against Colfax and they did.

“They were hanging on Kayla and Emma for dear life,” said Central coach Luke Fritsche about Colfax’s post defenders.

Fritsche said Colfax’s offensive goal was to try dribble-driving into the lane. The Panthers stepped up and cut off most of those drives, forcing the Vikings to shoot mainly from the perimeter. The Vikings hit seven three-pointers, but out of 24 attempts.

One of the signs of respect from the game was the fact that Colfax continued pressing Central until the final minute of the game.

Landry led the Panthers with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

“Emma fortified herself as someone who deserves and should be a first team all-conference player,” Fritsche said.

McKenzy Johnson found a hot hand from the perimeter, scoring 10 points for the Panthers.

The Panthers finish their regular season this Thursday with a home game.  Plum City will be the opponent. This will also be the “Coaches for Cancer” game. Three-quarters of the funds raised will go to the “Love for Loenser” Fund, for a Central teacher battling cancer. The other funds will go to the “Alive Fund” for people in need in the Central community.