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St. Croix Central girls basketball secures MBC title, get second seed

St. Croix Central senior Kalli Cress (4) goes to her left hand to score on this drive to the basket during last week's win over Baldwin-Woodville. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The undisputed champion of the Middle Border Conference is the St. Croix Central girls basketball team.

With wins over Baldwin-Woodville and Ellsworth last week, the Panthers locked down the MBC championship. The good news for the team continued on Sunday, when the Panthers received the second seed in the WIAA Division 3 sectional seeding process. With the second seed, the Panthers receive a bye in the opening round of regional tournament play next Tuesday. The Panthers first tournament game will be played at home on Friday, Feb. 23, against the winner of Tuesday's game between Baldwin-Woodville and Osceola.

The Panthers finish the regular season this Thursday with a home game against New Richmond. The Panthers will be going for their 20th win of the season on Thursday and a win would give them a perfect MBC record for the 2017-18 season. Thursday's game will serve as the Panthers' Senior Night.

The two wins last week locked up the MBC title, but neither would be considered an easy win. In the Hoops for Heroes game against B-W last Tuesday, the Panthers could never pull away from the Hawks. Central led 31-20 at halftime, but B-W had a couple scoring runs that kept this from getting comfortable for the Panthers.

Central coach Luke Fritsche said the coaches chose to have the team work on its man-to-man defense in the game. The coaches went with an offense that allowed the guards to post up if they felt they had a favorable matchup. It was frequently the Panther guards who were down on the low post, trying to score on post moves.

The Panther who stood out most against Baldwin-Woodville was senior McKenna Johnson. She's known best for her defensive play. She scored seven points, all coming from post moves.

"McKenna got in there and was really physical," Fritsche said.

Senior Mia Krogseng played another complete game, leading the Panthers with 24 points, five assists and five steals. Claire Frankiewicz contributed 12 points and nine rebounds.

On Friday, the Panthers played at Ellsworth. Central trailed at halftime, but made a tremendous second half charge to win 62-40.

Central opened the game with an 8-0 lead. Ellsworth came back, using extremely physical full-court pressure to incite the Senior Night crowd. At halftime, Ellsworth led 24-22.

With Ellsworth doing all it could to stop Krogseng, Central needed someone to take charge. That someone was senior guard Kalli Cress. She scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half to help Central gain control of the game and take Ellsworth's crowd out of the game.

Fritsche said this game was a good lesson for the Panthers, because they could face loud, hostile crowds when they get into the WIAA playoffs.

In addition to Cress' 15 points, Krogseng finished with 14 points. Frankiewicz and Kolbi Juen both scored nine points.

The Panthers were also in action this Monday, defeating Spring Valley in a non-conference game, 59-20. The Panthers took charge immediately, leading 37-5 by halftime. This looked like a playoff primer for the Panthers, as they played intense defense and shared the ball well. Frankiewicz led the team with 16 points and Krogseng scored 12 points.

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 more than 30 years.

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