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St. Croix Central boys basketball ready for a playoff push

St. Croix Central's Austin Kopacz (right) drives around a Baldwin-Woodville defender during the first half of the Panthers' Senior Night win last Monday. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The WIAA playoffs begin for the St. Croix Central boys basketball team this Friday.

The Panthers are the fourth seed in the WIAA regional bracket. They will play at home on Friday, hosting the winner of Tuesday's game between Osceola (5) and Spooner (12). The winner of Friday's game will advance to the regional championship game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday night.

The Panthers will be coming off an 11-day hiatus when they take the court this Friday. Their final regular season game was last Monday, when they hosted rival Baldwin-Woodville. The Panthers notched their 15th win of the season with a 47-30 win over the Blackhawks.

This was Senior Night for the Panthers. The team's four seniors were all in the starting lineup for the game. Guards Brett Mousel and Collin Nelson have started all season, while Justin Freyholtz and Nick Weber were making their first starts of the season. Central coach Zach Turpin said Freyholtz and Weber might not be starters, but they do serve important roles with the team. He said Freyholtz is a high-energy defender, while Weber supplies size and strength around the rim for the team.

This game was close for the first eight minutes of the game, with the Panthers a bit tentative with the new starting lineup. Junior Peyton Nogal then stepped up to make sure the game didn't stay close. He put the Panthers on his back, scoring 14 points in the first half as Central pulled away with a 27-15 halftime lead. Nogal finished with a game-high 20 points.

The rest of the Panther scoring was well distributed throughout the team as the Panther coaches worked 16 players into the game.

Nogal also led the Panthers with 10 rebounds. Weber and Freyholtz shared the team lead in steals, grabbing three apiece.

This game showed the type of defensive team the Panthers can be. They limited Baldwin-Woodville to 15 points in each half. The Hawks were forced into long possessions because there were no lanes available to pass or drive into the paint. The Panthers stole the ball 10 times and forced many more turnovers while turning the ball over just nine times themselves.

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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