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Schilling, Trevor Gruis combine for 52 points to pace Panthers past Eagles, 74-56

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Schilling, Trevor Gruis combine for 52 points to pace Panthers past Eagles, 74-56
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ELLSWORTH -- After Ellsworth's Cody Schilling scored 18 first-half points, Southwest Christian's Ryan Pronk wanted the defensive challenge in the second half.

"Ryan came up to me at halftime and told me that he wanted to guard Cody in the second half," SWC head coach Jamie Pap said. "So I said, 'all right, he's yours.' I thought he played one heck of a ballgame. He's our floor leader and he kept us going. Without him, we would have really struggled tonight."

Schilling finished with 26 points, but the Panthers shot 60 percent from the field to take a 74-56 victory in a key Red Rock Conference boys' basketball game Tuesday in front of a packed gymnasium.

"I wanted (Schilling) at half," Pronk said. "I felt like I could step it up and stop him. I don't know if it paid off or not, but I hope it did. I hope he lets me have him next time."

Schilling scored just eight second-half points and was just one assist away from a triple-double (11 rebounds, nine assists), but teammate Trevor Gruis scored 26 points and had eight rebounds as the two combined for 52 points, while SWC scored just 56.

"It's just more of the same (from those two)," Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson said. "We're coming to expect that from those two, and everyone else responds around them as well. We have five guys on the floor that played really well together."

Brandon Gruis scored 10 points for the Panthers to help keep Ellsworth (13-0, 19-2) undefeated in conference action, and two games ahead of SWC (11-2, 14-4).

"To lose conference is pretty hard," Pap said. "That was kind of the goal, and now we don't have a shot at it unless something really weird happens. That's disappointing, but on the other hand I'm glad we might play them again. It's tough to beat a team three times in a year, and now that's what they'd have to do."

Ellsworth, which defeated SWC 89-59 Dec. 7, didn't knock down a lot of 3-pointers, but was able to work the ball inside.

"I think we could step it up on defense a little bit," Pronk said. "It didn't go so well, and we let a lot of stuff go underneath that we probably shouldn't have. (Trevor) Gruis had a lot of easy bunnies that we need to take away in order to win next time."

In the early going, it appeared as if Schilling and Alex Huisken (18 points) were poised for a shootout.

Schilling scored six of Ellsworth's first eight points, while Huisken matched the senior guard with six of his team's first eight points.

However, Trevor Gruis converted two 3-point plays and threw down an alley-oop dunk, and Adam Van Der Stoep (nine assists) hit a trey as Ellsworth used an 11-0 run to take an 19-8 lead.

After a basket from Trevor Holm stopped the bleeding momentarily, Schilling hit a pair of shots and Brandon Gruis connected on a layup to push the lead to 13 points, 27-14.

A pair of treys from SWC's Mike Vander Veen cut the lead back to seven, but behind the play of Schilling and Gruis, the Panthers increased their lead to 16, 36-20.

"We hung around the whole game," Pap said. "I thought we were in it the whole game, but they had a stretch there in the first half where they got up by 15 and we just couldn't quite get it back."

After having a 41-28 lead at the break, the Panthers continued to push the lead. A 12-5 run increased the lead to 20, 53-33.

"We played real good as a team," Trevor Gruis said. "This is amazing, now we have a two-game lead in conference. We just have to play five more games and hopefully we'll finish on top of the conference."

However, the Eagles weren't going to go quietly. Pronk (eight points, five assists) and Tyler Mouw each connected on a shot, cutting the lead back to 16.

With six minutes left and a 65-46 Ellsworth advantage, Huisken went on a run of six consecutive points before fouling out as the Panthers went on to claim a 74-56 victory.

"I think we played great," Okeson said. "To hold a team like that to 56 points is great team defense. Offensively, we played well as a team and had great rhythm."

As a team, Ellsworth made 30 shots in 50 tries.

"Last time we played Southwest Christian we played really good and we shot really well," Trevor Gruis said. "Maybe it's just Southwest Christian."

However, the Panthers made just three treys on the night, compared to 13 the last time the teams met.

"The biggest thing is that we attacked their shooters," Pap said. "Last time, they had everybody chucking up 3s and making it. We did a better job of taking care of the ball this time. It was just a hard-fought ballgame."

The Panthers also held a 28-19 rebounding advantage.

"We didn't shoot well from outside, and they creamed us on the boards, and that shouldn't happen," Pap said. "But we got one thing accomplished; they didn't beat us on the 3-point line and that was our goal tonight. We got that accomplished, but now we have to figure out how to box them out and rebound the ball. If we do our job and they do their job, we'll meet again."

Ellsworth, which is now in the driver's seat for another conference title, will travel to Hills-Beaver Creek Friday.

"To be able to extend the conference lead with just a few games remaining is great," Okeson said. "If we were on the other side, it would be a different story. But it's a big win conference wise but also sub section seeding wise."

SWC will travel to Edgerton Public the same evening.

SWC 28 28 -- 56

Ellsworth 41 33 -- 74

SWC (3GF-2FG-FT-TP) Huisken 0-9-0-18, Van't Hof 0-1-3-5, Holm 0-2-0-4, Mouw 0-4-1-9, Vander Veen 2-1-0-8, Pronk 0-4-0-8, Van Hofwegen 0-1-0-2, Pfeifle 0-1-0-2. Totals 2-23-4-56.

Ellsworth (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Schilling 1-8-7-26, T. Gruis 0-12-2-26, Van Der Stoep 1-0-1-4, Hinrichs 0-1-0-2, B. Gruis 1-3-1-10, DeBerg 0-3-0-6. Totals 3-27-11-74.

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