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Section 3A boys basketball: Ellsworth holds off Fulda in playoff opener

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Ellsworth’s Justin Kruse works inside of a Raider defender for a shot during Saturday’s Section 3A boys basketball game. 1 / 2
BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Raider senior Cole Dierks takes aim on a jumper during Saturday’s game in Worthington. 2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — In a defensive-oriented, low-scoring game Saturday, the second-seeded Ellsworth Panthers (20-6) advanced to the Section 3A South semifinals with a 48-36 victory over seventh-seeded Fulda in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The Raiders, who finish the campaign with a 3-23 record, certainly came to play on “Super Saturday’s” third game as they battled the Panthers well the entire contest.

After 6-3 senior forward Josh Ramerth (14 points, nine rebounds, two steals) sank a pair of free throws with 3:20 remaining, Fulda trailed by just five points, 39-34.

Twenty-six seconds later, Ellsworth’s 6-5 junior center Justin Kruse connected on a sweet 15-foot bank shot, giving the Panthers a seven-point cushion.

Fulda’s only points in the closing minutes came on a strong rebound basket by 6-2 junior forward Bennett Appel with 58 seconds left. Ellsworth, meanwhile, stretched its lead with four free throws from 5-7 senior guard Johnathon Kramer (13 points, four assists) and a trio from the line by 6-2 senior guard Mitchell Leuthold.

“Give Fulda a lot of credit,” summed up EHS head coach JD Roberts. “They did a good defending us and we played just well enough to win, which is what counts at tournament time.”

Kruse, who scored two key baskets —- both off of assists from Kramer —- midway through the second half, finished with 15 points to lead the Panthers, while also snagging six rebounds and coming up with three steals. Drew Cheskie had a team-leading eight rebounds for Ellsworth.

Fulda, which twice came within one point (17-16 and 20-19) late in the first half on three-pointers from Ramerth and 5-9 senior guard Cole Dierks (14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists), effectively utilized the backdoor alley-oop, including a dandy from Dierks to Brian Fenske for a bucket, which triggered a 7-0 first-half Raider run.

“Our guys played hard and played smart,” summed up FHS head coach Colby Pack. “We played real good team defense the whole game. We just needed to hit a few more shots at the end, which could have kept it closer.”

Ellsworth plays Hills-Beaver Creek Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Worthington.

Fulda 19 36

Ellsworth 25 48

FULDA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) C. Dierks 4-1-0-14, Ramerth 1-2-7-14, Fenske 0-2-0-4, Appel 0-2-0-4. Totals 5-7-7-36.

ELLSWORTH (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Meester 1-1-0-5. J. Leuthold 0-1-0-2, Kramer 0-4-5-13, Hinrichs 1-0-0-3. M. Leuthold 1-0-5-8, Kruse 0-6-1-13, Cheskie 0-2-0-4. Totals 3-14-11-48.