The high hopes St. Croix Central boys’ basketball team were validated in the season-opening game when the Panthers won their season opener on Monday, Dec. 2. The Panthers showed a number of good things in winning 63-50 in their first game under new coach Randy Jordan.

The Panthers are intent on becoming a team that can rely on its defense. In Monday’s victory, the Panthers showed they have the ability to place a fierce man-to-man defense. That helped them build a double-digit lead midway through the first half. The Panthers used a 19-3 run in the middle of the second half to build an unbeatable lead.

At halftime, the Panthers led 33-18. The best stretch of the night for Central came early in the second half to extend the lead to 45-20.

Jordan said he saw a number of good things from his team, though he was quick to categorize it as a “first game,” which showed the team also has many things it still needs to work on.

“I was very impressed with our man-to-man defense, until the last seven or eight minutes,” he said.

The Panthers hit six three-pointers in the game, but they came from five different players. Jordan said he doesn’t mind the team trying threes, as long as the ball has been in the paint to draw in the defense first.

Juniors Kelson Klin and Gabe Siler led the Panther offense by scoring 17 points each. Jackson Pettit and Colin Hackbarth both made their first varsity start, both scoring nine points.

Klin said he thinks the team has made excellent progress in the preseason, stressing teamwork and attitude.

“Team chemistry is what makes us better,” Klin said.

Klin said the switch to the man defense and the shortening of the bench puts more pressure on the players to maintain a strong defense. He said the coaches have prepared the players for the demands of this defense by doing extensive running in practices.

The Panthers will play at home this Thursday, facing Osceola.