Small-town club returns to big-time welcome
A very proud and supportive crowd welcomed the Class A state boys' basketball runners-up home to the Ellsworth gymnasium Sunday afternoon. The Ellsworth Panthers returned from their weekend trip to Minneapolis with silver medals and a second-plac...
A very proud and supportive crowd welcomed the Class A state boys' basketball runners-up home to the Ellsworth gymnasium Sunday afternoon.
The Ellsworth Panthers returned from their weekend trip to Minneapolis with silver medals and a second-place trophy after impressive showings at Williams Arena and Target Center.
Ellsworth proved it has one of the best basketball teams in the state, and some of the best fans, as well.
At the celebration, players and coaches took time to thank the fans for all of their support.
But it was the gratitude of the fans towards the team that stuck out the most.
Classmates of the team members talked about how much the team means to everybody in the community, giving them something to cheer and dream about.
"You gave a small town big dreams," one of the students said. "You guys may not know it, but you're a big deal."
They certainly are, as the small-town heroes took to the biggest stage that Minnesota high school basketball has to offer and had a blast doing so.
"These kids loved every minute of the state-tournament experience," head coach Markus Okeson said. "These guys are a great group to work with, and I enjoyed every aspect of this season. We have a great basketball family here."
Okeson took time to thank all the people that were involved with the team's success, and said he will never forget the team's magical season.
Assistant coach Steve Kellen recapped the season, and noted how he and Okeson continued to set goals that they knew and believed the players could accomplish.
Some of those goals were winning the Camden Conference South, earning the No. 1 seed and winning Section 3A South, getting another shot at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in "Round Three," and advancing to the state tournament.
Well, the Panthers shared the conference title with R-T-R, and were the top-seeded team in the South before they defeated Fulda to advance to the Section 3A title game.
They then advanced to the state tournament by dramatically overcoming an 18-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to dethrone the two-time defending state champion Knights in overtime.
And while they didn't quite win a state championship, they achieved more this season than most teams ever dream of.
It was definitely a season to remember in Ellsworth, filled with many highlights and memories.