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Panther girls hoops team striving for continued improvement

Ellsworth's Kelsey Betthauser was an All-MBC player last season as a sophomore.

It may well be Kelsey Betthauser is the Ellsworth High School girls’ basketball team’s top returning scorer for the upcoming 2013-14 season and a second team All-Middle Border Conference selection.

But second-year head coach John Kleppe said that the Panthers will be improved enough on offense to where the scoring will be balanced.

“Kelsey will definitely be a big factor for us but our whole offense won’t revolve around her,” Kleppe said. “I believe we have improved a great deal to where we’ll have several players as scoring options.”

Kleppe pointed to junior point guards Edin Hines and Briana DeGross and senior shooting guards Tacia Kuhl, Hayley Stoesz and Chelsy Strom as players who will put in the points for the Panthers this season, along with post players like junior Darby DeGross and sophomore Alexis Linder. Senior Katelyn Kannel will join in this mix as soon as she recovers from an injury by about mid-January.

Other members of the varsity squad include sophomores Loran Cipala and Loralei Kuhl and juniors Nieka Armour and Payton Bjorkman.

EHS graduated six seniors from last season’s 3-19 (2-12 in the Middle Border Conference) team in Emily Wilbur, Stacie Peterson, Rebecca Matzek, Mikayla DeGross, Riley Harrison and BreAnna Tallman. While EHS struggled at the start of last season, their play near the end was much improved , especially on offense.  Kleppe says this improvement has continued since the start of practice.

“It’s easier to continue with something than to start something new,” Kleppe said. “We’re a month and a half ahead of where we were at this time last year. I think we’re all-around better, not just in specific areas of the game like ball-handling, shooting or cutting for example, alone and its largely due to being a more experienced ballclub.”

To improve upon last season’s record won’t be easy. EHS has a tough schedule just in this first week of the season in hosting MBC favorite Baldwin-Woodville tonight at 7:30 p.m. and and MBC favorite New Richmond on Friday and then play at River Falls on Saturday. Ellsworth goes up against another MBC favorite, Durand, in a couple of weeks.

“Baldwin-Woodville and New Richmond and Durand too, all have solid teams,” Kleppe said. “For the rest of the teams in the league, there’s no solid placing so it could be a wild ride to see who finishes where, even up to the second and third place, and that has us excited for the upcoming season.”

Kleppe believe the Panthers climb up the MBC standings will be made easier with easy baskets.

“We have to do a better in the transition game and find ways to score easy baskets,” Kleppe said. “If we could score 8-10 baskets a game where we don’t have to work so hard will make it easier for us. That’s where getting steals and forcing more turnovers from our defense will help.”