Panthers pull away for the prize
MARSHALL -- Sparked by three consecutive 3-pointers that gave them their first lead of the game midway through the second half Saturday night, the Ellsworth Panthers went on to defeat Fulda, 78-67, in the Section 3A South boys' basketball title g...
MARSHALL -- Sparked by three consecutive 3-pointers that gave them their first lead of the game midway through the second half Saturday night, the Ellsworth Panthers went on to defeat Fulda, 78-67, in the Section 3A South boys' basketball title game at Southwest Minnesota State University's R/A Facility.
Top-seeded Ellsworth (25-4) advances to the Section 3A championship game, where it will meet the north's No. 1 seed, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Marshall.
No. 6 Fulda, which ends its season at 16-11, was in control of the game through the first 26 minutes before Ellsworth put together its only major run of the contest to take the lead, and go on for the victory.
Trailing 49-42 following a beautiful pick-and-roll basket by the Raiders (Sam Woitalewicz over the top to Tim Haberman) with 10:42 to play, Ellsworth buried three straight treys, starting with Ben Herman's bomb with 9:57 remaining.
Bryan Kramer (16 points, nine rebounds) then grabbed a defensive rebound on the ensuing Fulda possession before he stroked a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 9:10 showing on the clock.
A minute later, with Fulda still leading 49-48, Kramer drilled another 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Ellsworth its first lead (51-49) of the game with 8:10 left.
"Against their zone (1-2-2), I told the kids to just catch and shoot, don't think about anything else," Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson said. "Bryan stepped up big time. He's a senior, and you expect that from your seniors in the postseason."
Fulda's John Isder (12 points) responded with a slashing 3-point play to put the Raiders back on top (52-51) just 13 seconds later.
That would be Fulda's final lead, however, as Cody Schilling (19 points, 17 rebounds) hit a 12-foot baseline jumper 17 seconds later.
Aaron Van Der Stoep (19 points, five assists) then connected on a 3-pointer to make it 56-52 Ellsworth, forcing the Raiders to call a timeout and switch to man-to-man with 7:05 to play.
After a Haberman free throw, Schilling drove in, spun and kissed a shot off the glass while being fouled. He made the free throw to complete the 3-point play, and Ellsworth led 59-53 with 6:39 to go.
Ellsworth later extended its lead to 12 (71-59) with 1:57 remaining. Fulda got 3-pointers from David Crowley and Woitalewicz to draw closer, but the Panthers were solid from the foul line (9-for-12) in the final two minutes to preserve the victory.
It was the Raiders who dominated the game in the first half, as they built a lead as big as 11 on three different occasions.
Woitalewicz started the game with five points in the first minute, as he banked in a nice runner before firing in a deep 3-pointer against Ellsworth's 1-3-1 defensive look.
Crowley (12 points) then found Haberman (14 points) with an over-the-top lob pass to make it 7-0 Fulda with 16:25 to go in the half.
Schilling's 3-point play got Ellsworth on the board with 15:53 left, but Fulda responded by going on another 7-0 run (two free throws by Haberman, a put-back bucket by Woitalewicz and a trey by Crowley) to go up 14-3 with 13:38 remaining.
After Kramer hit a 3-pointer, Isder countered with one of his own to make it 17-6 Fulda with 13:01 to play.
Fulda's Alex Hein later turned in two stellar defensive plays, as he first stuffed a Van Der Stoep pull-up jumper with 10:52 to play.
The freshman then hustled for an amazing steal in Ellsworth's backcourt before making an unbelievable pass (while sprawled out on the ground) to Isder for a lay-up with 5:30 to go.
That play made it 28-22 Fulda, but Van Der Stoep hit two treys to help Ellsworth draw even (30-30) with 3:08 remaining in the half.
Woitalewicz (23 points) then scored two baskets to give Fulda a 34-31 halftime lead before he helped spark the Raiders to their seven-point lead midway through the second half.
The senior sharpshooter drained two long three-pointers and an 18-foot pull-up jumper while also finding Haberman for two baskets, including the pick-and-roll hoop to make it 49-42 with 10:42 to play.
But that's when Ellsworth got hot and took the lead, advancing to Thursday's showdown with R-T-R.
"You just knew they were going to come back at some point in the game," Fulda head coach Harvey Carroll said. "We had to stop their run, but we just didn't step up and do that."
Herman added 12 points for Ellsworth, which outrebounded Fulda 42-32. Nick Deutsch played well off the bench, passing out five assists.
Another highlight for Fulda was when senior center Lucas Isder, who has been sidelined all season with a knee injury, saw his first action of the year by playing at the end of both halves.
Fulda 34 33 -- 67
Ellsworth 31 47 -- 78
FULDA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): J. Isder 2-2-2-12, Crowley 2-3-0-12, Hein 0-1-2-4, Woitalewicz 4-5-1-23, Kuhl 0-1-0-2, Haberman 0-5-4-14. Totals: 8-17-9-67.
ELLSWORTH (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): DeBerg 0-1-4-6, Deutsch 0-1-3-5, Kramer 4-2-0-16, Schilling 0-7-5-19, Van Der Stoep 4-1-5-19, Herman 1-4-1-12, Jansma 0-0-1-1. Totals: 9-16-19-78.