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Ellsworth defeats R-T-R, heads back to state tournament

MARSHALL -- As usual, Cody Schilling delivered clutch play after clutch play and long-range shooter Aaron Van Der Stoep drilled timely 3-pointers, but at game's end it was the shooting touch of Josh Nolte and Wayne Jansma that extended Ellsworth's lead and sent the Panthers back to the boys' state basketball tournament.

In a rematch of last year's Section 3A championship game, Ellsworth repeated as gold medalists with a thrilling, 68-60, victory over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Thursday at Southwest Minnesota State University.

"It's an awesome feeling to win and go back to the state tournament," said Jansma, a 6-4 senior post, who played well defensively -- off the bench -- in the second half and sank four-of-four free throws, including a pair with 16 seconds left that lifted Ellsworth's lead to six points (66-60) for the third time. "We all stepped it up at the end when we had too."

Before Jansma's clinching free throws, it was Nolte, a 5-11 senior sharpshooter, that knocked five consecutive points over a span of a minute and eight seconds that kept the Panthers ahead.

Leading 59-58 with 1:57 showing on the clock, Ellsworth had the ball and took a timeout.

Seventeen seconds later, Nolte took a pass from Weston DeBerg (four assists, six rebounds, seven points) and sank a 3-pointer from the top of key, putting the Panthers up by four, 62-58.

"We were to going to shoot if we were open," Nolte (eight points, four rebounds) explained. "I knew it was good as soon as I let it go."

R-T-R, which finishes its season at 17-9, came right back on a hard drive to the basket by Barry Alderson, cutting the lead to 62-60 with 1:06 left. The Knights had closed the gap to 59-58 one minute earlier on the same effort by Alderson (14 points, five rebounds, two steals).

"Alderson made a couple of great drives," said Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson. "R-T-R ran their stuff well, making big plays and hitting clutch shots all game long. We needed to make our free throws at the end and we did."

After Alderson's second drive and a missed free throw by the Panthers, R-T-R's Spencer Kor (14 points) claimed his 11th rebound of the game and the Knights had a chance to retake the lead for just the second time in the second half.

But Schilling (29 points, eight rebounds, five steals, four assists) partially blocked Colton Sanderson's attempted 3-pointer and Nolte came up with the ball and was fouled with 32 seconds to play.

Standing about five feet closer than he was on his previous shot, Nolte netted a pair of free throws, giving Ellsworth a 64-60 lead.

Sixteen seconds later, Jansma made his two from the line, and after DeBerg's hustle in the corner broke up R-T-R's last chance, Schilling came up with the ball. His two free throws gave Ellsworth its biggest lead of the game.

"Both team's hustled and played hard," said R-T-R head coach Ted Kern. "I am proud of our effort and our execution, our kids played well throughout the whole game against a great defensive team. At the end, Ellsworth shot free throws better than we did."

The Knights, who had earned several leads in an action-packed first half, made only 3-of-9 free throws in the second half, finishing 6-of-12 for the game, after making all three of its chances in the first half.

By contrast, Ellsworth was 10-of-12 in the second half, making 14-of-16 for the game. Schilling was a perfect 7-of-7 at the line.

The score was tied four times and there were nine lead changes in the first half, as both sub-section champions displayed lots of offense.

The game's first free throw was not attempted until the 10:38 mark when R-T-R's Brennen Rupp converted a three-point play, knotting the score at 20-all.

Rupp (11 points) scored seven points in the first half, but sat much of the second with three --- and then four --- fouls.

After the Knights, who established themselves early by scoring the game's first five points, had taken a 26-24 lead with 6:50 to play in the half, Ellsworth went on an 11-4 run to take a 35-30 lead with 2:30 showing.

But R-T-R trimmed the margin to 37-34 by intermission and continued to battle the Panthers throughout the second half.

Van Der Stoep (16 points) hit his third 3-pointer of the contest with 16:34 to play, lifting the EHS lead to 40-35. About five minutes later, he sank another one, putting his name at the top of the list for all-time 3-point shots made in a single season in Minnesota history -- 148.

"That feels good to have the record," said Van Der Stoep. "But the best thing is that we won and I will get a chance to shoot some more next week."

The previous state record for made 3-pointers in a season was 147 set by Cretin-Derham Hall's Steve Sir in 2001.

R-T-R had taken a 45-44 lead at the 11:49 mark -- its first since 4:15 remained in the first half -- but Van Der Stoep's basket put EHS up, 47-45.

Three minutes later, with the score tied at 49, DeBerg had a high screen set for Schilling, but the versatile junior faked like he was coming off the screen and his baseline drive gave the Panthers a 51-49 edge at the 8:20 mark.

Jansma, who earlier had a nifty assist to DeBerg (off an offensive rebound), sank two free throws, giving Ellsworth a 59-53 lead with 4:32 to play.

The Knights then scored five straight points, before Nolte's 3-pointer put the Panthers back in command.

Ellsworth will tangle with defending state champion Rushford-Peterson (a 60-50 winner over Southland in the Section 1A finals) Millvile at the Target Cener in Minneapolis at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the state tournament quarterfinals.

R-T-R 34 26 -- 60

Ellsworth 37 31 -- 68

R-T-R (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Possail 0-3-2-8, Sanderson 1-3-0-9, Rupp 0-5-1-11, Alderson 0-7-0-14, Kor 1-5-1-14, Johnson 0-0-2-2, Erickson 0-1-0-2. Totals: 2-24-6-60.

Ellsworth (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Nolte 2-0-2-8, DeBerg 0-3-1-7, Schilling 2-8-7-29, Van Der Stoep 4-2-0-16, Chapa 0-1-0-2, Klaassen 0-1-0-2, Jansma 0-0-4-4. Totals: 8-15-14-68.