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Prescott barely passes Ellsworth for 46th straight MBC win

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Peter Brookshaw led all scorers with 27 points in his team's tight victory over the Ellsworth Panthers on Thursday, Dec. 7. After just two games, Brookshaw is averaging 32.5 points per game on the season. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Alex Motley shoots a jumper over Prescott's Joe Roosen. The two seniors both played large parts in their teams' efforts on Thursday, Dec. 7. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Ellsworth's Logan Benson led his team in scoring and rebounding against the Prescott Cardinals on Thursday, Dec. 7. Benson finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson4 / 4

Prescott's conference game streak is still alive. But just barely.

The No. 9-state-ranked Cardinals (2-0, 1-0) boys basketball team went home with a 77-73 over the Ellsworth Panthers (1-2, 0-1) on Thursday, Dec. 7, but the Panthers made a statement in the game: they refuse to be walked all over by the Cardinals this year.

Last year, the two teams met on Jan. 12, which ended in a Prescott 76-59 victory, and on Feb. 17, a 72-57 game that also went in Prescott's favor.

But Prescott and Ellsworth fans can expect tighter matchups between the two teams this season, and they were given a taste of this on Thursday night in a fully-packed Ellsworth gym.

In the first few possessions of the game, both teams traded layups, turnovers and missed three-pointers, but a Logan Benson block and basket followed by an Alex Motley steal-turned-layup gave the Panthers an early 8-4 lead.

Four Prescott points from point guard Peter Brookshaw gave the Cardinals a brief 10-8 lead, but it'd be the last time Prescott was on top in the first half.

Ellsworth's own point guard, Erik Lange, tied the game up, and began a 7-0 Panthers run that was created by a Drake Flom three and another Motley layup.

Prescott called their first timeout of the night at 12:33, and would get within two out of the huddle with baskets from Westy Bartsch and Brookshaw, but it was Ellsworth's half from there on out.

The Panthers took advantage of their slight height advantage over the Cardinals by grabbing offensive rebounds and converting them into second-chance baskets. Ellsworth's rebounding led to a 28-16 Panthers lead and another timeout called by Prescott head coach Nick Johnson with 8:06 to go before halftime.

Prescott caught a break when Parker Nielsen drew Motley's third foul, which sent him to the bench for the last six-and-a-half minutes of the first half, but the Panthers continued to take it to the Cardinals without their 6'1" guard.

Benson returned to the free-throw line where he went two-for-two, then swished a three in front of Prescott's bench to give his team a 13-point lead, but a Roosen steal and Brookshaw and-one layup cut the lead to 10 before Ellsworth called its first timeout of the night.

Ellsworth's Cole Woodland and Logan Richards each claimed buckets of their own out of the timeout, but they were matched with two Roosen layups and a Bartsch putback—the last points of the half.

Prescott had the momentum on their side at the break, and didn't waste any time heading into the second half of play.

"We kept it pretty simple and told the guys to just play our basketball," Johnson said about what his staff told their players at the break. "We didn't make any huge adjustments, but we said, 'Start defensively, get some stops, and that'll lead to some transition.'

"And that's exactly what happened."

To start the second half, The Cardinals went on a 12-0 run started by Brian Tayson free throws and completed with another Roosen hustle play. Panthers head coach Tim Dahl called another timeout at 15:56, and fans were presented with a whole new game tied at 37-37.

Brookshaw drew Motley's fourth foul when tied at 42-42, and Motley wouldn't return until 10:04 when his team was down 46-52. Motley's return spurred a 4-0 run for the Panthers, but the Cardinals would win the next stretch 20-17 before another Ellsworth timeout.

The Panthers came out of their huddle hungry for a comeback and picked up a Benson steal that resulted in a Flom free throw and a Prescott timeout after Brookshaw found himself trapped in the corner with 43.4 left on the clock. Ellsworth managed to get within one of the Cardinals with a Benson putback and a Motley three, but two Tayson free throws made it a two-possession game with 4.2 seconds left. Motley shot a no-good jumper at the buzzer, and the Cardinals secured their 46th consecutive conference win on Ellsworth's home court.

"We didn't come out very well, but you have to credit [Ellsworth]. They're a very good team," Johnson said following his team's win. "Things weren't going our way in the first half, but a lot of that has to do with how well [Ellsworth] played."

Johnson credited the team's win to his players' ability to keep their composure, but also tributed a lot of the win to Bartsch.

"He's maybe the reason we won," Johnson said. "I was very proud of how Westy played."

Bartsch said his role was to get rebounds, open up driving lanes, to set screens for Brookshaw to let him do his thing, and to help keep his team's composure.

Johnson also brought up Roosen's effort in the post-game interview.

"His defense, guarding Alex, one of the best shooters in the conference, and he frustrated him by making shots difficult," Johnson said. "Something that doesn't show up in a stat sheet."

"It's fun to play against him," Roosen said of Motley.

Roosen said Motley had 30 points against them last year at Ellsworth, and he knew his role was to narrow Motley's scoring coming into Thursday's game.

He also took responsibility for getting his younger teammates comfortable in a high-caliber varsity setting.

"Just kind of tell them that we've got their backs," Roosen said, "We just tell them to do what they've been doing in practice, just to be smart, and to not get caught up in the crowd."

For Ellsworth, despite their loss, Dahl told his guys how proud he was of them after the game.

"I told the boys we're 1-2, but we might be the best 1-2 team in this state," Dahl said.

Dahl was pleased with his team's first half, but said the Panthers didn't bring it the first three minutes of the second half.

Dahl said Woodland's effort stood out to him tonight. "He blocked Petey twice on jump shots," Dahl said. "I don't think Petey's ever had that happen before."

Woodland finished with five points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks on Brookshaw.

Dahl also said that Richards worked his tail off against Prescott. "Those guys both stepped up huge, and accepted their roles," Dahl said of Richards and Woodland. "As a coach, I can't ask for more than anything than that."

Richards added 11 points and six rebounds to his team's effort.

Dahl said his team didn't do anything terrible Thursday night, but that they'll work to fine tune the little things before their upcoming week where they'll face Saint Croix Central, Saint Croix Falls and Amery.

"We'll be fine."

Benson led the Panthers in scoring and rebounding with 23 points and 16 rebounds, his second double-double of the year. He also added six assists, two blocks, one steal, and was a large part in keeping his team neck-and-neck with the Cardinals throughout the game.

Motley added 20 points, Flom finished with nine and Lange had five along with the 16 from Woodland and Richards.

Brookshaw led all scorers with 27 points, and is averaging 32.5 points per game after his team's first two games.

The two MBC teams won't face off again until the end of the regular season on Monday, Feb. 19, but fans should mark their calendars now. You won't want to miss it.