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Grieving St. Croix Central girls basketball team falls in regional final

St. Croix Central senior Mia Krogseng (23), playing a heroic game in leading the Panthers with 27 points in Friday's win over Baldwin-Woodville. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
The emotion of the weekend poured out of the St. Croix Central seniors during the final seconds of Saturday's loss to Bloomer. Seniors McKenna Johnson (12) and Kalli Cress hugged, as did Mia Krogseng (23) and Abby Edelman, after they left the court for the final time in their careers.2 / 2

Through incredible grief, the St. Croix Central girls basketball team rose up to play an incredible game in their opening game in the WIAA Division 3 regional tournament on Friday.

Twenty-four hours later, the Panthers had to play again. Physically and emotionally spent, the Panthers couldn't repeat Friday's effort. On Saturday, the Panthers were knocked out of the WIAA playoffs by Bloomer, 50-38. The Panthers finish the season with a 21-3 record.

On Friday morning, Dan Krogseng, the father of Central leading scorer Mia Krogseng, died unexpectedly. Central coach Luke Fritsche said that with the condensed WIAA tournament system, there was really no thought about postponing Friday's game, because the winner of Friday's game had to turn right around and play Saturday.

There were many tears shed before and after Friday's game. But when the Panthers stepped on the court, they played with an incredible amount of poise. They jumped out to a 16-2 lead and played with incredible focus throughout the night in winning, 69-25.

"There was no doubt they'd bond together for Mia and for each other," Fritsche said. "I've never had a group of girls who were so good to each other."

And at the heart of the effort was Krogseng. By halftime she had already scored 18 points, finishing the night with 27 points. Fritsche said Krogseng's performance reminded him of efforts by Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, who rose up with monumental performances after the passing of their fathers.

"She was a wreck and we were all wrecks for her," Fritsche said. "Some people have the ability to rise up when adversity hits. She did her dad really proud."

As word spread about Krogseng's death, other teams sent their condolences. Baldwin-Woodville sent flowers and the B-W student section dressed in purple to honor the Krogsengs.

"You could see how much they respect Mia," Fritsche said.

Claire Frankiewicz scored 13 points in the win, with Abbie Widiker and Kalli Cress finishing with nine points each.

In Saturday's game, it didn't take long to see that the Panthers were exhausted. The game was tied 8-8 with 10:51 left in the opening half. Bloomer then went on an 8-1 run to take control of the game. That was compounded by severe foul trouble for the Panthers, with Krogseng, Frankiewicz and Cress all in foul trouble. At halftime the Panthers trailed 18-12.

In the second half the Panthers kept trying to come back, but Bloomer answered every Panther surge. Krogseng scored a three-point play with 5:47 left to cut Bloomer's lead to 34-31. The Blackhawks answered with a 10-1 burst that put the game out of reach.

Frankiewicz led the Panthers with 12 points Saturday and Krogseng scored 11 points. With a hoop at the 11:51 mark in the second half, Krogseng became the all-time leading scorer in St. Croix Central girls basketball history. She finished her career with 1,519 points. Amber Graf previously held the record of 1,511 points.

Fritsche said the girls should be proud of what they accomplished this season, winning the Middle Border Conference and winning 21 games to compile one of the most successful seasons in team history.

"The girls played as hard they could," he said of Saturday's loss. "They put a ton of energy into Friday's game for Mia. I don't know how much they had left."

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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