BOYS' BASKETBALL: Panthers punch ticket to state

MARSHALL -- Adam Van Der Stoep was all smiles. Following Ellsworth's state-qualifying victory Thursday, Van Der Stoep, a senior, had the Section 3A boys' basketball championship medal and the remains of the net around his neck. "It's a little itc...

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe The Ellsworth boys' basketball team celebrates winning the Section 3A championship Thursday night in Marshall.

MARSHALL -- Adam Van Der Stoep was all smiles.

Following Ellsworth's state-qualifying victory Thursday, Van Der Stoep, a senior, had the Section 3A boys' basketball championship medal and the remains of the net around his neck.

"It's a little itchy," Van Der Stoep said. "I don't feel right wearing it; I want to get one more net."

With a 67-66 victory against Ortonville, the Panthers will make their fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament and will look for their third consecutive title.

Van Der Stoep has been a part of it all four times. But it doesn't get old for the two-year starter.


"I was the camera guy the first year, my brother's junior year, and then I was on the bench, and the last two years I've been starting," Van Der Stoep said.

After accepting his medal and taking the final piece of the net, Van Der Stoep had a moment with Ortonville's Bryant Zahrbock.

"He said I was a great shooter, and I said he was really hard to guard," Van Der Stoep said. "I'm going to have to go home and ice my knees and ankles because he's really quick. They are a great team, and we were down pretty much the whole game."

In a game that was tight from the opening tip until the final buzzer, Ellsworth was able to weather a pair of great Trojan performances and pull out a narrow victory.

Zahrbock finished with 25 points (14 in the first half), while Jesse Roscoe scored 18 (13 in the second half) in the game.

"It's satisfying to know that you can put your mind to a goal and get it done," Van Der Stoep said. "Everybody on the team has the same goal."

The goal of qualifying for the state tournament looked to be in doubt in the first four minutes of Thursday's game.

Ortonville started on a 9-0 run in the first 3:25, forcing an Ellsworth timeout.


"We had a lot of trouble with (Zahrbock)," Ellsworth head coach Tyler Morris said. "He's a really good player, and we had a lot of trouble with the high pick and roll. But I think we got better at it in the second half, we started forcing him left, and he was kind of right-hand dominant. But what a player."

However, out of the timeout, freshman Dalton Huisman gave the Panthers a spark.

Huisman hit a trey from the left corner, and Van Der Stoep followed with a shot in the exact same spot, pulling the Panthers within three, 9-6.

"I'm definitely a fan of the guy," Van Der Stoep said of Huisman. "I'm a fan of a lot of guys on the team, but he comes off the bench and does a really nice job for us. That's huge momentum. Our crowd loves it when we make 3-pointers, and that's huge."

Huisman and Van Der Stoep each connected on another trey, and Tom Nolte followed suit, but the Panthers still trailed 17-15.

"Coach said that we're not always going to be up -- it's just not possible," Van Der Stoep said. "You can't get rattled, and that's what it came down to. We came out a little rattled and then we got it under control and we were up by one at halftime."

The Trojans had a lead for nearly the entire first half. However, Huisman connected on two more 3-pointers and Nolte hit a jumper in the final minutes, giving Ellsworth a 31-30 lead at halftime.

"We've been talking to (Huisman) all week because we knew they were going to come up and play some 2-3 zone and we thought we'd see some box-and-one or some triangle-and-two (defenses)," Morris said. "So all week we've been pumping Dalton Huisman up, saying, 'Do you know how many open looks you're going to get? You should be licking your chops.' Just like the (Hills-Beaver Creek) game, he came off the bench and got us going. He doesn't play like a freshman at all."


However, Ellsworth's halftime lead was short-lived.

Matthew Fellows converted a steal into a layup, giving Ortonville the lead, 32-31, out of halftime.

Every time the Panthers made a run in the first seven minutes of the second half, Ortonville's Roscoe was there.

After scoring five points in the first half, Roscoe scored 13 second-half points, including key baskets in the early going of the second 18 minutes.

A trey by Van Der Stoep and a jumper by Nolte gave Ellsworth the lead, 48-46, with fewer than 11 minutes remaining, but Roscoe answered with a basket.

Following a shot by Ellsworth's Trevor Gruis (12 points, six rebounds), Ortonville went on a 6-0 run and had a 57-53 lead with fewer than seven minutes remaining.

Gruis hit a basket and Casey Schilling (15 points) scored four consecutive points, giving Ellsworth a 59-57 lead.

Leading by two with fewer than two minutes remaining, the Panthers needed a big defensive stop.


And they got two.

Ellsworth's defense was able to force a jump ball with 1:38 remaining, but the possession arrow was with the Trojans.

Needing a basket to tie, the ball was knocked loose from the Trojans, and Gruis hit the floor. He was able to gain control and get the ball to a teammate, saving the game momentarily for Ellsworth.

"We talked about how we needed to get some defensive stops at some point, and we were able to get a couple there late and make free throws," Morris said.

After Nolte's free throw, Zahrbock connected on two foul shots, cutting the deficit to one point, 64-63.

Schilling was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws, giving the Panthers a three-point lead.

Roscoe had a good look at a shot to tie on the next possession, but the ball rolled out, and with five seconds remaining, Ellsworth's Matt Buntjer secured the rebound.

Fouled immediately, Buntjer needed one free throw to seal the victory.


Making the first, he did just that.

Buntjer missed the second, but the game was sealed.

Zahrbock made a 3 at the buzzer, but it was the Panthers who secured a trip to state for the fourth consecutive year.

"That was pretty interesting," Morris said. "I don't think defensively we played our best game at all, so we're going to have to work on that in the next week. But it is exciting to be going back to state; I'm really happy for those seniors like Tom Nolte and Adam Van Der Stoep who have just been great to work with this year. I'm just happy we can get back there for them."

Van Der Stoep finished with 17 points, while Nolte finished with 10.

For Morris, a trip to state is a dream come true for the first-year head coach.

"It's been awesome, and it's been fun," Morris said. "At times I kind of have to pinch myself to make sure it's really happening. I try to keep myself focused, like I do with the guys and we'll keep trying to work hard.

"I'm going to probably enjoy this (Thursday). Then practice (Friday) I'll probably have forgotten all about this and we'll be back to work."


The Panthers will face the winner of Section 5 Thursday at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, starting at 5 p.m.

But walking off the floor with his medal and a piece of history, the details didn't matter to Van Der Stoep Thursday night.

"I don't know who we play now," he said. "I don't know when we play. All I know is that we're going to state."

OHS 30 36 -- 66

EHS 31 36 -- 67

OHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Berger 0-4-0-8, Scherer 3-0-0-9, Zahrbock 1-7-8-25, Fellows 0-3-0-6, Roscoe 2-6-0-18. Totals 6-20-8-66.

EHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Huisman 4-0-0-12, Van Der Stoep 5-1-0-17, Nolte 1-3-1-10, Gruis 0-6-0-12, Schilling 1-5-2-15, Buntjer 0-0-1-1. Totals 11-15-4-67.

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