Panthers quiet Dragons
ADRIAN -- For 32 minutes, the Adrian Dragons gave the Ellsworth Panthers all they could handle.
Leading by just nine points with four minutes remaining, Ellsworth (3-0 7-1) finished on a 14-8 run en route to a 81-65 victory in a Red Rock Conference boys' basketball contest Friday night.
"They are one of the best teams in the state, and now we know that we can play with them," Adrian post Brett Oertli said. "We kept up with them for about 32 minutes, and there was just about four minutes that really hurt us."
In front of a capacity crowd, Adrian (2-2 4-3) pulled within three points in the second half, but could not overcome a potent Panther team.
"We had momentum going into half," Adrian head coach Chris Rozell said. "Then we came out and got it within a couple, and then it was just kind of back and forth between eight and 10. Then they finally found some open spots and a couple of big 3s kind of buried us there and put us into a hole that we couldn't get out of."
Cody Schilling started the game on fire for the Panthers.
Schilling, who finished with a game-high 29 points, hit the first six points as Ellsworth took an early lead.
A jump shot by Justin Weidert got Adrian on the board, but another basket by Schilling increased the lead to 8-2.
"They came out in man, and I knew I had a mismatch. I pulled up and hit a few shots, and my shot was falling right away, so I kept doing that," Schilling said. "It was feeling good, and then they went to a diamond and one, so other guys stepped up."
Adrian's Brett Oertli (22 points, eight rebounds) answered for the Dragons. Oertli scored the next six points for Adrian, keeping the Dragons within six points.
"We always like to go inside out, but we tried to get him some looks coming across the lane," Rozell said. "We finally did that midway through the first half, and then I think he kind of got tired towards the end of the game. But he had a great night."
However, Schilling (10 assists, seven rebounds) answered with five of the next seven points as Ellsworth opened up a 10-point lead.
Following an Adrian timeout, Oertli responded with six consecutive points as the Dragons trailed by just two points.
"I had good passes, that's about it. I had some good looks off of them," Oertli said. "We just go by whoever gets open and whoever has the hot hand."
Ellsworth used a 12-0 run in the closing minutes, but could not open up more than an 11-point lead.
Brian Tjepkes (16 points) hit a pair of treys to close out the first half, but the Dragons still trailed, 38-30.
Behind five points from Tjepkes, Adrian opened the second half on a 9-4 run, bringing the score to 42-39.
"I was happy with the way the guys played," Rozell said. "They played hard from the tip, and they found ways to get the ball in the basket against a very good basketball team."
Behind eight points from Trevor Gruis (21 points, 10 rebounds), the Panthers were able to maintain their lead throughout the early part of the second half.
Schilling, who had just two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half, was able to find gaps and open teammates in the Adrian zone.
"He was getting other kids involved," Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson said. "If teams want to focus on Cody Schilling, we have enough other kids that can step up and hit shots."
Jordan Hinrichs took advantage of the openings and connected on the next six points for Ellsworth -- pushing the lead to nine points.
"Like I told those guys, make them guard everyone on the court," Schilling said. "If no one is guarding you, then find a spot and I'll find you. Teams that play zones or box in ones or triangles in two, there are so many gaps. We just try to break it and take care of it and that's what we did tonight."
Adrian, however, would not go quietly. The Dragons continued to trade points back and forth over the next few minutes.
Adam Van Der Stoep (seven points, six assists) and Brandon Gruis (eight points, five rebounds) each hit a key trey to give Ellsworth a 15-point lead.
"I think we played the best game that we've played all year," Oertli said following the game. "We were down four with about four minutes left and then Cody Schilling really took over and hit quite a few big shots. Before you know it, we were down by 16."
Trevor Gruis made a shot and a free throw down the stretch to seal the 81-65 victory.
"We didn't play our best game tonight, but when you come on the road in a packed house sometimes they have all the momentum," Schilling said. "It was a back and forth game, and they gave us a tough game. But that's what we thought when we came in here, so that's what we were expecting."
After carrying the Dragon offense in the first half, Oertli was held to just six points in the final 18 minutes.
"In the first half he had 16, but in the second half we did a better job of containing him and he only had six," Okeson said. "We just covered up the paint a little better in the second half and it showed."
Adrian will travel to Southwest Christian Tuesday, while Ellsworth will host Edgerton Thursday.
Ellsworth 38 43 -- 81
Adrian 30 35 -- 65
Ellsworth (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): DeBerg 0-2-1-5, Schilling 3-9-2-29, Hinrichs 1-4-0-11, Van Der Stoep 1-2-0-7, B. Gruis 2-1-0-8, T. Gruis 0-10-1-21. Totals 7-28-4-81.
Adrian (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Diekmann 1-1-1-6, Tjepkes 4-1-2-16, Parsley 0-3-5-11, Weidert 0-1-0-2, Reyne 0-3-2-8, Oertli 0-11-0-22. Totals 5-20-10-65.