WORTHINGTON -- With the snow starting to disappear, the baseball season is quickly approaching for area teams.
With three double-digit victories at this year's Class A boys' state basketball tournament, the Ellsworth Panthers were crowned champions for the second consecutive season under head coach Markus Okeson. In just his third season at the helm of the Panthers, Okeson already has a pair of state championships and a state runner-up finish on his resume.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Entering the state tournament, Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson told his team defense would win the Panthers a championship. Nothing could have been more true. The Panthers held a high-scoring Minnesota Transitions Charter team well below its average in an 81-63 victory Saturday to earn Ellsworth its second consecutive Class A boys' basketball championship. "We came out, and we defended well night in and night out," Okeson said.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite having a player like Cody Schilling and a state championship in the trophy case in Ellsworth, the Panthers knew that one player wouldn't take the small-town team back to glory this season. That's where sophomore Trevor Gruis came in. "We needed another guy to step up, and he's filled in," Schilling said of Trevor Gruis. "After Aaron (Van Der Stoep) graduated last year, people said in order for you guys to be good, someone's going to have to step up and help Cody.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's becoming a habit for the Ellsworth Panthers. With a 66-52 victory over Norman County East Friday in the state semifinals, the Panthers advance to the Class A boys' state basketball championship game for the third consecutive year -- searching for their second consecutive title. "It's like a dream come true," Cody Schilling said. "Last year, I almost took it like I was a senior because it's so tough to get here. There are hundreds of teams that want to be where we're at. To get to the championship three years in a row, it's tough.
MINNEAPOLIS -- After scoring just four points and not being a factor in the section championship, Ellsworth sophomore Trevor Gruis knew he needed a better outing in the first round of the Class A boys' state basketball tournament. Gruis responded with a 19-point, 14-rebound double-double to lead the Panthers (29-2) past Granada-Huntley-East Chain, 59-41, Thursday at Mariucci Arena. "I was kind of coming off a slump, but I think I came out pretty decent," Gruis said.
MINNEAPOLIS -- And then there was one. With 36 seconds remaining in Thursday's Class A boys' state basketball game at Mariucci Arena, Ellsworth's Cody Schilling hit the shot of a lifetime on the state's biggest stage. Schilling and the Panthers were already assured of advancing to today's semifinal game, but the shot gave the senior Minnesota's all-time scoring record with 3,367 points, surpassing Braham's Isaiah Dahlmann's record by a point. "To get the record, I got it on the baseline and hit a fade away jumper, and it felt good after it left," Schilling said.
WORTHINGTON -- For the Ellsworth Panthers, its' a trip they've made before. For Granada-Huntley-East Chain, it's a whole new experience. While the Panthers (28-2) will be making their third straight appearance at the boys' state basketball tournament Thursday at 3 p.m. at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus, the Mustangs (25-2) will experience the big stage for the first time. "This is the first trip that we've made to state," G-H-EC head coach Robbin Celander said. "We've been pretty successful in the sections and gotten there, but we just could never get that last game.
After coaching Southwest Star Concept to a fourth place finish at the Class A state girls' basketball tournament, head coach Les Knutson took a moment to sit down and reflect on this season's success.
MARSHALL -- As Ellsworth's Cody Schilling cut the final pieces of the net down from the R/A facility on the campus of Minnesota State University, it was finally time to celebrate. Schilling scored a game-high 26 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead Ellsworth past Dawson-Boyd, 56-51, in the boys' Section 3A basketball championship game Tuesday night. "It was an ugly game," Schilling said. "It's kind of like take a breath, and wow, we won. We're going to have to play a lot better at state if we're going to repeat.