PREP GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Ellsworth beats H-BC in the opening round of the Section 3A tournamentELLSWORTH — Most teams would be relieved to have a playoff game at home. That wasn’t the case for the Ellsworth girls’ basketball team.
ELLSWORTH — Most teams would be relieved to have a playoff game at home.
That wasn’t the case for the Ellsworth girls’ basketball team.
Prior to Thursday’s first-round playoff game against Hills-Beaver Creek, the team had put up a record of 2-10 at home. The Panthers’ road record, however, was 8-1.
But Ellsworth was able to pull off the victory, no matter how difficult it was to do, and defeat H-BC 36-25 to advance to the second round of the South Sub-Section 3A tournament.
“Our whole season at home hasn’t been very pretty, so I’m kind of glad to be on the road again Saturday,” Ellsworth head coach Ben Mettling said. “I think the girls played well. They never gave up, and that’s the key. It’s good that we made it back to Super Saturday. We’ll see how it goes.”
It was a rough first half for both teams. The first basket of the game (Alexa Huisman of Ellsworth) wasn’t scored until nearly three minutes had transpired.
From that point on, there was anywhere between one minute and, more likely, three minutes between each bucket.
By the time the teams entered the locker room for halftime, the score was tied at 12.
“We struggled a little bit with getting our shots to fall,” Panther senior Emily Timmer said. “So in the second half we just decided to put it on the floor and take it in.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we came out with the win and that’s what matters. We get to play Saturday and that’s what we’re happy about.”
For the Panthers, the second half was a polar opposite of the first.
After giving up nine offensive rebounds to the Patriots in the first half, Ellsworth held its opponent to only one in the final 18 minutes.
Instead of playing a perimeter game on offense, the Panthers attempted to make shorter shots and ended up scoring double the points they did in the first half.
Ellsworth also committed only two fouls in the second half of the game, compared to 14 by H-BC.
Amber Walkowaik led Ellsworth with 11 points, five steals and two assists. Huisman and Bridget Kramer each added nine points and four rebounds and Timmer had 13 rebounds — seven of which were offensive.
“One or two things go a little wrong and I think we end up getting a little tentative. That’s what happened in the first half,” Mettling said. “Second half we came out and we attacked better and got a little better shots. Offensively, we broke it down a little better. Our shots were falling and then we could relax a little bit and go from there.”
The Patriots were led by Katlyn Sandbulte’s six points. Paige and Meghan Leuthold each added four points and 10 rebounds for H-BC.
Although the Patriots (2-22) were able to hang with Ellsworth in the first half, their opponents went on a 14-0 run during a seven-minute span with 14 minutes to play in the game.
Although head coach Jason Blosmo pointed to H-BC’s team defense as being a strength, the Patriots’ offense couldn’t keep up with the rolling Panthers.
Once Ellsworth went on that run — which after scoring 14-consecutive points, ended up being a 20-3 run — the Patriots’ confidence was shot and it was hard for them to recover.
“Momentum can change, but confidence should never waiver,” Blosmo said. “Defense is where things are won and we gave ourselves a chance to win by only giving up 36 points, but you can only play defense for so long. Everybody needs to be rewarded in the offensive end and when that doesn’t happen something’s got to give. It just wasn’t there for us tonight.
“There’s no question we played hard. It’s just unfortunate that there’s no tomorrow.”
But Ellsworth (11-11) extended its season by at least one game.
For the third-straight year, the Panthers have made it to the second round of the sub-section tournament. And, for the third-straight year, they will take on Southwest Christian.
The two teams met twice during the regular season, splitting the games. SWC throttled Ellsworth 63-30 on Dec. 8, and the Panthers surprised SWC with a 54-48 victory last week.
Their next game will be played at 2:30 p.m. at Worthington High School on Saturday.
“As long as we play together we’ll be fine,” Ellsworth senior Abby Drenth said. “If we play like we did last time, then hopefully we’ll get past round two. We just need to have fun and do our best. That’s all we can really do.”
H-BC 12 13 — 25
EHS 12 24 — 36
H-BC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Sandbulte 2-0-0-6, N. Leuthold 0-1-2-4, M. Leuthold 0-2-0-4, P. Leuthold 0-1-2-4, Van Wyhe 1-1-0-5, Kroon 0-1-0-2. Total 3-6-4-25.
EHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Huisman 1-1-4-9, Walkowaik 0-3-5-11, Kramer 0-4-1-9, Drenth 1-1-0-5. Total 2-10-10-36.
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.