Panthers win Section 3A title

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.

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. In the tournament, an ugly or a good win is still a win."

With the victory, the Ellsworth advances to the state tournament, March 27, where the Panthers will face Granada-Huntley-East Chain, who defeated Buffalo Lake Hector, 77-45, Tuesday evening in the Section 2 championship game.

"It's great," Ellsworth head coach Markus Okeson said. "It's great for our kids, and for our community. We have great fan support, and we look forward to going to state and making some noise up there."


While the Panthers (28-2) ended up on top, it was a tough battle the entire game.

"I thought our kids played with a lot of heart," D-B head coach Cory Larson said. "We've had a good season all the way through, but about eight or nine games ago they finally felt the end of the season coming, and each game they kept picking up their intensity. Obviously, the first half showed tonight, they played an excellent half of defense."

Wanting to control the tempo and not get into a shootout with the Panthers, the Blackjacks were able to do exactly that in the first half, and had a 26-20 lead at the break.

"We just didn't come with the fire right away," Weston DeBerg said. "They capitalized on it and made a lot of tough shots. But our defense kept us in the game."

However, after giving up a basket to Tyler Flattum (20 points) to start the second half, the sleeping giant, that is the Ellsworth offense, finally awoke.

"At halftime coach goes, 'we're not going to win just watching Cody play,'" Schilling, who scored 12 of the Panthers' 20 first-half points, said. "He said that other guys have to step up, and he got in the face of some seniors. Like you saw in the second half, some of our seniors stepped up."

Trailing by eight points, it was three Ellsworth seniors that started a 15-0 run. Following a pair of foul shots from Schilling, DeBerg (10 points) connected on a shot inside, and Brandon Gruis (six points) hit a shot as Ellsworth was able to turn the deficit into a seven-point lead, 35-28.

"Dawson-Boyd was here for a reason; they are a good team," Schilling said. "They kind of controlled the tempo tonight. We wanted to control the tempo, but they did a good job of that. In the second half, I think we went on a 15-0 run, and that's what we've been doing all season."


After D-B's Josh Aakre hit a jump shot to stop the run, Schilling hit another shot to keep the lead at seven points.

However, D-B was not going quietly. Matt Anderson (18 points) hit a trey to cut the lead to four, and later, Flattum scored eight consecutive points for the Blackjacks to cut the lead to five, 46-41.

"Once we got that lead in the second half, then it started to feel good," Schilling said. "But before then, it was like come on guys. It felt like we were stuck in mud there for a while."

Anderson then hit a pair of shots and with less than five minutes remaining and the Panthers had a slim one-point lead.

After Schilling made another jumper, Aakre hit a pair of free throws to keep the lead at a single point.

But it was then that Adam Van Der Stoep (nine points) hit a trey to push it to four points and put the game away.

"Stoep struggled in the first half, but he hit a couple in the second half," Schilling said. "That was huge."

DeBerg hit a shot off a pass from Schilling (seven assists), pushing the lead to six, 53-47.


"Before the game, I wanted to be an impact player and get stuff done," DeBerg said. "At halftime, coach came out and said I was a senior, and I needed to step it up and get it done."

D-B wasn't able to recover, as Ellsworth held on for a 56-51 victory.

"Our offense tonight probably didn't score as many points as we'd like," Larson said. "But you have to give Ellsworth credit, too. Everyone thinks they aren't that great of a defensive ballclub, but they are. They have the right tools."

After two 20-point games, Ellsworth's Trevor Gruis was held to just four points and six rebounds.

"It was just a weird game tonight; they kind of controlled the tempo," Schilling said. "It wasn't Trevor's greatest night, but he set some screens for me to get to the hole. Trevor is going to do what it takes to win. He's a team player."

For D-B, shutting down Trevor Gruis and keeping the score low was a key entering the game.

"We wanted to be physical with (Gruis) and push him off the low post, and I thought we did a good job of that," Larson said. "We said, honestly, that if we held them below 60 points, we thought we would win."

While the Panthers scored 36 points in the final 18 minutes, it was D-B that controlled the tempo in the early going.


Anderson connected on the first points in the game, and DeBerg answered with a basket to tie the game in the first two minutes.

However, Anderson hit a pair of free throws and Ian Hansen (seven points) hit a shot as the Blackjacks had an early 6-2 advantage.

"They came out in the first half, and we had no intensity," Schilling said. "I don't know if we were over confident or what. Their game with (Russell-Tyler-Ruthton) was a sloppy game, and I think we just thought that if we came here and played good basketball, we'd come here and win."

Schilling, who is 23 points away from becoming the state's all-time leading scorer, scored on a pair of shots, and DeBerg and Brandon Gruis each hit a shot as the score was tied at 10-all midway through the first half.

But it was the Blackjacks who hit the shots, as Flattum and Hansen combined to score 11 of D-B's last 14 points to take a 26-20 lead at the break.

"In that first half, they came out and were more physical and more aggressive than we were," Okeson said. "We were a little tentative, and it showed in the first half. They dictated what they wanted to do, and we didn't do a very good job."

While D-B controlled the first half, the Panthers controlled the second to pull out the victory.

Getting to state has been a goal for the defending champions, but there is still work left to be done. And for DeBerg, only one thing would make his senior season better.


"Another state championship would be nice," DeBerg said with a smile.

Ellsworth 20 36 -- 56

D-B 26 25 -- 51

Ellsworth (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) DeBerg 0-5-0-10, Schilling 0-11-4-26, B. Gruis 0-3-0-6, T. Gruis 0-2-0-4, Van Der Stoep 3-0-0-9. Totals 3-21-5-56.

D-B (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Anderson 2-5-2-18, Hansen 1-2-0-7, Flattum 0-9-2-20, Roiger 0-1-0-2, Aakre 0-1-2-4. Totals 3-18-6-51.

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