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PREP BOYS' BASKETBALL: Panthers earn big win

WORTHINGTON -- One word was written on the top of the whiteboard in the Ellsworth locker room Thursday night: Urgency. The Panthers showed plenty of that in the ensuing 36 minutes, cruising past Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 76-59 in the semifinals of th...

Ellsworth's Nolte
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Ellsworth's Nick Nolte shoots a floater in the lane during Thursday night's Section 3A South semifinal boys' basketball game in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- One word was written on the top of the whiteboard in the Ellsworth locker room Thursday night:

Urgency.

The Panthers showed plenty of that in the ensuing 36 minutes, cruising past Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 76-59 in the semifinals of the Section 3A South boys' basketball tournament.

"Our word at the top of the whiteboard was urgency," Ellsworth head coach Tyler Morris said. "I didn't think Saturday against Red Rock Central, we came out with any urgency. We came out and we were stagnant offensively and defensively. I think we just kind of expected things would happen for us. It's not that easy."

Top-seeded Ellsworth (24-4) had to rally for a 71-62 victory against eighth-seeded Red Rock Central on Saturday.

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On Thursday, it appeared to flip a switched and a new team took the floor.

"The switch should have really been flipped last week and it wasn't," Morris said. "But we managed to escape and we're here. I had a lot of people after Saturday come up and say, 'Hey, maybe that's what you needed. Maybe you needed that wake-up call.' I won't argue with them and it's a really nice thought. Maybe that is, I don't know."

Ellsworth will advance to face third-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek on Saturday for the sub-section final. Game time is slated for 12:30 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

But before they could play at the college, the Panthers had to take care of business against R-T-R (19-8).

"Our big thing this week in practice was activity and being active," Morris said. "We were doing drills offensively and defensively where we were really emphasizing being active and not just standing. I thought we did way too much standing last week. That was kind of the focus of practice this week, being active and getting after it. Tonight, it was urgency. That was the key word."

Four players scored in double figures for Ellsworth, led by Casey Schilling's Kevin Love-like double-double of 22 points and 21 rebounds.

"We played really balanced," Schilling said. "We were being very unselfish tonight. That's when our team is at its best."

Schilling had 19 defensive rebounds in the game and finished with more than half of Ellsworth's team total of 40.

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"I try to board as hard as I can," he said. "Rebounding is such a mental thing. If you just work as hard as you can, you're going to get the board."

Early on, the Panthers took their coach's word to heart.

Nick Nolte hit a trey to start the game and Schilling scored four quick points, giving Ellsworth a 7-0 lead.

After a basket by R-T-R, the Panthers went on a 5-0 run as Travis Kvaale (10 points) converted a three-point play and Nolte hit a floater in the lane.

R-T-R's Brett Peterson made a free throw, cutting the deficit to 12-3.

It would be the closest the Knights would get all day.

Logan Ahlers hit a trey and Nolte converted a steal into a layup, sparking a 12-0 run as Ellsworth had a 24-3 lead.

"We tried to push the ball and the tempo as much as possible," Schilling said. "When we're pushing, you end up being unselfish. We really just dominated right away. We were up 24-3 right away and it was just a great start and we played really great tonight."

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Nine minutes into the first half, the Knights were still stuck on three points.

"The starters did such a great job to open up the game and got a huge lead," Morris said. "We were playing defense, they were stuck on three for quite a while."

Darren Feste broke the drought with a jumper for the Knights and Peterson followed with a free throw before Ellsworth's Daniel Kramer made a shot to push the lead to 20 points.

R-T-R later scored back-to-back to cut the deficit to 30-12, but sparked by a 3 by Kvaale, the Panthers ended the first half on a 15-3 run -- which was highlighted by a steal and dunk by Schilling -- taking a 45-15 lead into the locker room.

"The cool thing, too, was that we were sharing the ball offensively and we were finding the open guy," Morris said. "They went zone a couple times and we found the open guys and stuck a 3. That first half was about as well as you can play and about as unselfish as you can play and about as good of a defensive effort as you can get. That was awesome."

It was a nearly flawless first 18 minutes for the Panthers.

"We always put stuff up on the whiteboard before the game -- offensive keys that we need to do to execute, defensive things we need to do to execute," Morris said. "It just seemed like Saturday against Red Rock, we came in at halftime and we weren't doing anything we had put up on the board. Tonight, we were doing all of those things and we were doing them at a really high level. It's fun to coach when the kids are doing exactly what needs to be done."

R-T-R's Taylor Newton was held to a single free throw in the first half.

"Nick Nolte did a heck of a job on Taylor Newton," Morris said. "I think Newton had one point at halftime and that's all Nick Nolte right there."

Newton was off on all of his shots, and hit one of two free throws with 2:31 remaining in the first half.

"I just had to keep him in front of me," Nolte added. "We had to shut Taylor down. I think if he would have had a great night it would have been a lot tougher. He's a really great player."

Newton scored 10 of the Knights' first 16 points in the second half. However, the R-T-R senior finished with 13 in the game -- well below his season average of 22.6 per contest.

"You could tell, Nick got in his head and he was a little shot on every shot," Schilling said. "It was really good for us."

The Panthers continued to click offensively as Schilling scored four quick points, Dalton Huisman (14 points) hit a trey and Kvaale had a putback, pushing the lead to 32.

Nolte (13 points) scored the next seven points for the Panthers, pushing the lead to 34 points -- the largest of the game.

"I think we played really well as a team tonight," Nolte said. "Saturday I think it was just one of those days. We've been having really good practices this past week, so I think that helped a lot."

Ellsworth continued to hold a big lead before the Knights closed the gap in the final minutes for a 17-point spread, although the game wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

"It might have ended as a 17-point game, but we were up 30 the whole time," Schilling said. "We played really well tonight."

R-T-R 15 44 -- 59

Ellsworth 45 31 -- 76

R-T-R (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Newton 2-3-1-13, Madsen 1-0-0-3, Peterson 0-3-2-8, King 0-1-0-2, Feste 0-4-0-8, Kor 0-4-2-10, DeRuyter 0-1-0-2, Wabeke 0-2-0-4, Vercruysse 0-2-0-4, Dunblazier 0-2-1-5. Totals 3-22-6-59.

Ellsworth (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Leuthold 1-0-2-5, Nolte 0-5-3-13, Huisman 2-3-2-14, Ahlers 1-2-0-7, Schilling 1-8-3-22, Kramer 0-1-0-2, Kvaale 1-2-1-10, Cheskie 0-1-1-3. Totals 6-23-12-76.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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