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Prep girls basketball: Central Lyon pulls away from Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH -- The season didn't start well for the Central Lyon girls basketball team.But in the past few days, head coach Heather Grafing is seeing an improvement in her team. The Lions defeated Ellsworth 49-34 Monday night in a nonconference gam...

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AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Ellsworth’s Megan Popkes (23) puts up a shot during the Panthers’ 49-34 loss to Central Lyon Monday night. Popkes finished with 13 points and four steals.

ELLSWORTH - The season didn’t start well for the Central Lyon girls basketball team.
But in the past few days, head coach Heather Grafing is seeing an improvement in her team.
The Lions defeated Ellsworth 49-34 Monday night in a nonconference game. After starting the season 0-4, the Lions have now won four straight games, including three in the past four nights.
“To really appreciate that record, you had to have seen our first four games,” Central Lyon head coach Heather Grafing said. “Two of them were to ranked competition in the Siouxland Conference that are in classes above us. This is a totally different team than what started the season. I’m super proud of them.”
The Panthers didn’t make it easy Monday as Ellsworth turned the ball over just four times in the first half against the Central Lyon press. The Lions led 17-8 with 6 minutes, 29 seconds remaining until halftime, but a triple from Devin Dreesen, a basket from Megan Popkes and a free throw from Sierra Smith had the Panthers right back in the game. Ellsworth held the Lions scoreless in the final 6:29 and trailed 17-14 at halftime.
“I think in the first half we shot 25 percent and we were still in the game at 17-14, so we were pretty pleased with that,” Ellsworth head coach Dean Wieck said. “We expected a lot more out of Central Lyon at the beginning of the game as far as their press and all that stuff. I thought we did a good job on that. Hopefully we can continue that throughout the year and do the same things.”
Out of the break, the Lions’ pressure started to create more turnovers.
“I don’t know if we got tired or what, but it seemed like in the second half they ran a 1-3-1 against us and we had a little more issue with breaking that,” Wieck said. “We struggled with our passing angles. But otherwise, we didn’t get many shots in the second half. I don’t think we had too many turnovers, we only had 13, but we only had four at half, so we had nine in the second half.”
Mattie Knobloch hit a 3-pointer for the Lions to start the half, and then converted on a three-point play as the lead was quickly seven.
“We’ve had a lot of success the last week with our man press,” Grafing said. “That was something that we wanted to go with tonight, too. We weren’t moving our feet and they were throwing it over the top and our back girl wasn’t there. In the second half, we went to a zone press. We were trying to force them into some bad passes.”
Popkes (13 points, four steals) scored on a drive and Dreesen (seven points, five rebounds, four steals, three assists) hit a 3 as the Panthers were within four, 25-21.
However, the Lions went on a 9-2 run to push the lead to 11.
Popkes converted a four-point play to end the run before Hope Rasmussen (13 points) and Knobloch (eight points) each made a free throw to push the lead to nine. Smith made a layup for the Panthers as the deficit was just seven points with 9:40 remaining.
It was then the Lions went into stall mode.
“As packed in as their 2-3 zone was, I made the decision to pull it out and make them come out of the zone,” Grafing said. “Obviously nine minutes is a lot of time on the clock to start stalling. But I knew they would adjust and we could draw them out a little bit. As soon as we were able to draw the defense out, we were able to start using our quickness a little bit and get to the rim.”
Ellsworth didn’t score for the next six minutes as the Lions increased their lead to 14 points.
“Once we go man, we’re really exposed to our weaknesses a little bit,” Wieck said. “We have to get better at man when teams do that to us. It’s a good problem to have, when they are pulling the ball out that means we’re in the game, for us that’s a good thing. The girls are learning a little bit.”
Smith hit a jumper with 3 minutes remaining, and Lizzie Chapa made a free throw before Popkes converted a steal into a layup for the Panthers, but it was the Lions who came away with the victory.
Ellsworth is at Adrian tonight, while Central Lyon hosts Sheldon.
“There are a few things we hope we can tweak before tomorrow night and see if we can go into Christmas over .500,” Grafing said.
Central Lyon 17 49
Ellsworth 14 34
CENTRAL LYON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Snyder 1-2-0-7, Knobloch 1-1-3-8, Elbert 0-1-0-2, Boer 0-3-0-6, Witt 1-3-4-13, Rasmussen 0-4-5-13. Totals 3-14-12-49.
ELLSWORTH (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Kramer 0-1-0-2, L. Chapa 0-1-1-3, K. Chapa 0-2-0-4, Dreesen 1-2-0-7, Popkes 1-4-2-13, Smith 0-2-1-5. Totals 2-12-4-34.

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