Panthers, Eagles and Arrows look to advance to section finals
WORTHINGTON -- Two victories away from a state tournament berth, area boys' basketball teams from Ellsworth, Southwest Christian and Pipestone Area will vie for sub-section championships today in Marshall.
Sub-Section 3A South
From the beginning of the season, it was the goal of the Southwest Christian Eagles (19-5) to return to the sub-section championship game against the Ellsworth Panthers (26-2).
Last year, the Panthers defeated the Eagles, 81-65, en route to a Class A state championship -- a scenario SWC head coach Jamie Pap and the Eagles would like to turn around this season.
"I've coached this team three years now, and the last two years we've been knocked out of the playoffs by Ellsworth," Pap said. "We've only beaten them once in my tenure, so we'd like to come out and compete; that's our goal.
"I remember as a player trying to beat a team three times in a year, and it's very hard," Pap added. "It's especially hard with the style of play we both have. We're not going to change anything we do. Everybody's going to do what they do. Hopefully, we can do what we do better than Ellsworth. We've got to execute."
The Eagles will likely try to get leading scorer Alex Huisken in a groove early. Huisken was limited in his first-half efforts against the Adrian Dragons in the sub-section semifinals, but finished with a strong second half in posting a 33-point, 15-rebound double-double to lift the Eagles to a 78-69 victory.
If Huisken doesn't find the range early, the Eagles will look to the perimeter shooting of Ryan Pronk and the inside muscle of Tyler Mouw.
Defensively, the Eagles will not look to focus on Ellsworth star Cody Schilling, but rather try to limit points production from the Panthers' supporting cast -- especially post Trevor Gruis.
"Schilling is going to get his points, and that's the way it's going to be," Pap said. "We'll try to keep the other guys down. A lot of coaches have tried to stop Schilling, but you're not going to stop him. The best hope is to try to contain him."
While Schilling (28 points, nine rebounds per contest) and Trevor Gruis (15 points, nine rebounds per game) will likely be the offensive focus for the Panthers today, it is the rest of the Ellsworth team Pap and the Eagles will look to shut down.
Adam Van Der Stoep has demonstrated a steady hand from the perimeter, and knocked down a four treys against the Murray County Central Rebels in the sub-section semis -- en route to a 14-point night.
Weston DeBerg and Brandon Gruis also have the ability to hit the open jumper, but it is their defensive competence that makes them fierce competitors.
"Adam is smooth in knocking down the open shots and he manages the game well for us," Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson said. "Weston and Brandon have great instincts at the defensive end of the floor, and they can also shoot the ball well. And our first two off the bench, Tom Nolte and Jordan Hinrichs, will step in without missing a beat when called on."
The teams met twice during the regular season with Ellsworth coming out on top on both occasions.
In their first game of the year, the Eagles failed to give the Panthers a run for their money -- dropping an 89-59 decision. In the much-anticipated second meeting (Feb. 19), the Eagles didn't fare much better, falling 79-72 -- leaving Pap and SWC to hope for another meeting in the playoffs.
Pap and the Eagles got their wish.
"We're right where we want to be," Pap said. "We're hoping the third time's the charm."
Game time is slated for 2:30 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Sub-Section 3AA South
Winner's of seven straight, dating back to Feb. 12, the Pipestone Area Arrows (13-11) are perhaps the hottest team left in the tournament.
The Arrows will look to keep their streak alive against the Fairmont Cardinals (16-9) at 8 p.m. tonight at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Following the Bethel Holiday Tournament, the Arrows were a 1-7 team searching for an identity. In 2008, the Arrows have rededicated themselves and developed new ways to use their personnel to their advantage.
"We made some adjustments in our offense a little bit and made some adjustments in our defense," PA head coach Todd Tinklenberg said. "We're playing more zone this year than we've played in the past 10 years combined. We just had find ways to keep teams off balance. We try to rotate our zone and man-to-man defense throughout the game.
"The kids really worked hard on the little things," Tinklenberg added. "We worked on the fundamentals of rebounding, keeping the ball above their heads, chinning the basketball -- just little things you have to get better at each game. We started to do those things, and we're 12-4 since Christmas. And the four games we lost were by a combined score of eight points, so we're just doing the little things right."
With everybody on the PA team doing the little things well, the opposition has had difficulty focusing on areas to attack and defend.
While no PA player has a scoring average over 14 points, the Arrows do have a quartet of young men that have averaged in double figures over the course of the season.
Senior Greg Quist leads the Arrows in offensive output with 13.6 points and seven rebounds a contest, followed by junior Tyler Maschino with 12.5 points. Senior Doug Mead and junior Shelby Jones (team-leading eight rebounds per game) have posted 10.6 and 10.2 points per game, respectively, making the Arrows a tough team to defend.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, look to a pair of players -- Jeff Janssen and Brennan Holm -- almost exclusively inn the offensive zone.
Janssen, a 6-4 guard, has been a one-man wreaking crew for Fairmont this season, scoring more than 600 points this season. Janssen is averaging more than 26 points and eight rebounds per game.
Groomed by his father to be a ball-handling guard, Janssen's height makes him an asset under the glass on the defensive end, but the lanky senior is adept on the dribble and shoots well from the perimeter.
"Janssen is going to present some problems for us," Tinklenberg said. "We have to try to not let him get the ball much -- limit his touches. They also have some height in the post, which could present a problem."
Holm, a 6-5 junior, is the Cardinals' big man in the middle. A strong defender, Holm is also a solid scorer inside, averaging 14 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds a contest.
The Cardinals' other starters, Brandon Wohlrabe, Chris Janssen (no relation) and Justin Heinrich can't boast exceptional scoring statistics, but defend well in Fairmont's man-to-man format.
In a balanced-oriented team versus marquee player match-up, this game will likely come down to what Tinklenberg has been preaching since Christmas: the little things.