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Girls basketball: Panthers win first season opener in eight years

Multiple scoring options led the Ellsworth Panthers girls basketball team to their season-opener win against the Alma/Pepin Eagles on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

Ellsworth's 65-40 victory was the program's first season-opening win since the 2011-12 season.

Seven different Panthers hit the scoring column in the first half of Tuesday night's game to stakeout a 30-21 advantage. Sophomore Kaitlyn Nugent had eight of her team's first-half points.

The Panthers got into some early foul trouble and sent the Eagles to the free throw line 20 times where the Eagles were able to score 13 of their first-half points.

But the roles reversed in the second half when the Panthers came out on the attack and made their way to the free throw line 14 times. Panthers head coach Jason Janke said his team was able to get more balanced contributions to extend its lead throughout the latter stages of the second half of play.

Ellsworth's Autumn Earney led her team's second-half charge with 12 points, nine of which came from behind the three-point arc.

"The second half saw our kids settle in and Autumn and Kaitlyn really attacked the hoop well. And, we answered each of their mini-runs," Janke said.

The Eagles were able to close the gap some a couple of times in the second half, but Earney's three-pointers were "backbreakers" for the losing team, according to Janke.

Earney (21 points) and Nugent (12 points) led the Panthers in scoring, while Olivia Lynner dropped in eight points for a balanced night that featured nine players finding the net.

Janke was pleased with Masen Bach and Taylor Feuerhelm's defensive performances, and said that Nadia Sigler, Earney and Nugent did a fine job leading the team's offense.

Janke said his team played nervous early on, but that the girls were able to stick with the game plan — getting rebounds and attacking the basket.

"I think we took more shots in the first half tonight than we did in the entire first game last season," Janke said on his team's aggressive offensive play. "We made some defensive mistakes early on, but our girls did not allow it to affect them on the offensive end."

The Panthers will try to improve their defensive game and continue their offensive success in their home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 28 against the 0-2 Spring Valley Cardinals.