Panthers go cold from the field
LAKE CITY -- It took the Ellsworth boys basketball team five minutes to score its first points Tuesday in the opening game of the Lake City Holiday Tournament and the Panthers fell 46-42 to Legacy Christian Academy.
Ellsworth (3-2, 2-1 Middle Border) struggled to make jump shots against Legacy Christian Academy but used defense to fight back into the game after falling behind 11-0 in the opening minutes of the first half.
"None of our shots were falling," Ellsworth junior Alex Campbell said. "Our defense was solid; we just have to match-up."
The Panthers never led in the game and made just 2 of 14 3-pointers, but attacked the basket in the second half. They finished 16 of 35 on 2-point attempts for the game.
Senior Travis Kroll led Ellsworth with 13 points and Campbell added 10 points. Senior Jacob Betthauser scored eight points and pulled down eight rebounds. Senior Lemoine Steffen had six points and five rebounds.
Ben Freeby scored 17 points for Legacy Christian Academy to lead all scorers. Connor Peterson added 11 points, including two 3-pointers. Legacy Christian Academy made five 3-pointers in the game.
The Panthers struggled to guard Freeby throughout the game, giving up six inches of height in the post. Ellsworth started in a man-to-man defense but switched to a zone, realizing Freeby could score at will against one defender.
"He was too much to handle," Ellsworth head coach Cory Brathol said of Freeby.
However, when the Panthers switched to a zone Legacy Christian Academy knocked down two consecutive 3-pointers.
"It's all in the match-ups," Brathol said of switching to a zone defense. "They had a very balanced attack."
After the rough start Ellsworth picked up its intensity and held Legacy Christian Academy scoreless for eight minutes near the end of the first half. With 2 minutes, 22 seconds left in the opening half, the Panthers cut the lead to five points. They should have trailed by six points at halftime but a Legacy Christian Academy shot was counted after clearly leaving the player's hand after the buzzer sounded. Legacy Christian Academy took a 21-13 lead into halftime.
"It looked like they started a little lax," Brathol said. "We weren't in a real good flow or rhythm in the first half."
Ellsworth shot just one free throw in the first half but made a more concerted effort to attack the basket out of the break. The Panthers finished 4 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Both teams missed shots early in the second half with the first points scored on a free throw by Legacy Christian Academy 2:29 into the half. The Panthers kept chipping away at the lead. They trailed 26-21 with 12:08 remaining and it was hustle plays that got Ellsworth within reach of the lead.
"We kept trying to get the ball to the basket," Brathol said. "And offensive rebounds. We were getting some extra looks and extra possessions."
The Panthers pulled within three and four points on multiple occasions in the final seven minutes of the game but Legacy Christian made the majority of its free throw attempts down the stretch to secure the victory. Legacy Christian Academy made 14 of 18 free throws.
Brathol said it was a statement of the players' character to fight back in a game they shot so poorly in.
"The kids have a lot of heart to chip away and battle back," Brathol said. "We're right there. I think the guys are fine. It's just a matter of making plays on the offensive end."
Ellsworth will play against the loser of Kasson-Mantorville and Lake City Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Lincoln High School in Lake City.