Brett Mousel's steal and fastbreak layup at the buzzer gave the St. Croix Central boys basketball team a 49-47 win at Osceola last Friday.
This was the second highly-intense finish of the week for the Panthers. Three nights earlier, they lost at home against New Richmond 53-50, with a Panther three-point shot at the buzzer bounding off the rim.
Other than the first 10 minutes last Tuesday, the Panthers struggled offensively. It was the defense that carried the Panthers to the win at Osceola. Central coach Zach Turpin said that Mousel and fellow senior Collin Nelson spearheaded a fierce defensive effort on Friday.
"I think Collin was tremendous against (Haakon) Carlson," Turpin said. Carlson is Osceola's leading scorer. With Nelson as the primary defender, Carlson was limited to 12 points, getting three in the second half.
Osceola primarily uses a zone defense, built around the length of Carlson on the perimeter and the bulk of the Braml twins in the paint. The Panthers' tentative offense resulted in Central falling behind by 10 points in the first half.
"We didn't look confident against their zone. We settled for some jump shots," Turpin said.
The Panthers inched back into the game in the second half. Mousel led the way, scoring all 11 of his points in the second half. Will Soderberg also finished with 11 points and Peyton Nogal topped the team with 12 points.
Turpin said this definitely counts as a team win.
"The five guys we had on the court (at the end of the game) dug in and refused to lose. Our kids had the will to win," Turpin said.
The tentative offense proved more costly last Tuesday in the 53-50 loss. The Panthers had a 10-point lead in the first half. It was down to one point by halftime, (24-23) and the Panthers showed little firepower in the second half. Austin Kopacz was the best threat in the second half, scoring seven of his nine points. Nogal finished with 13 points, having hit a trio of three-pointers in the first half.
"We didn't play with a ton of energy. Offensively we were really stagnant," Turpin said.
The Panthers will face a demanding two-night schedule against a pair of conference leaders this Thursday and Friday. The Panthers will play at Middle Border Conference leader Prescott this Thursday. The final four games on the Panther schedule are at home. That starts on Friday, when the Panthers host Dunn-St. Croix Conference leading Durand.