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Ellsworth basketball: Girls make strides against B-W, boys pull off win over NR

Alex Motley put up 16 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists against the New Richmond Tigers on Tuesday, Jan. 16 in his team's 64-62 victory. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson1 / 2
Ellsworth senior Caitlin Dahl had four points in her team's loss against Baldwin-Woodville, but spoke positively of her senior season even after losing 60-46 on Friday, Jan. 19. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Win or lose, Jason Janke's girls basketball team knows how to find the silver lining in their play.

The Ellsworth Panthers lost 60-46 on Friday, Jan. 19 at home against Baldwin-Woodville, but were quick to point out the positives of this season compared to their 5-18 2016-17 run.

Janke's team didn't connect from the field until the first five minutes of the Friday night game had passed, but the team was able to create many more shot opportunities with their trigger-happy offense against the Blackhawks — something that Janke said his team struggled to do last year.

"I hate to keep leaning on this, but we're growing," Janke said. "Probably half of the shots we're getting this year were turnovers last year, and if you don't get shots, you don't get offensive rebounds, you don't get opportunities to get the ball in the basket."

The Panthers took an early 8-3 lead over B-W with two Autumn Earney three's and an Olivia Lynner basket, which was assisted by Emma Swanson, and lengthened their lead to 16-10 on an 8-0 run created by Earney, Lynner and Swanson. However, their lead was vanquished by an 11-0 B-W run that led the Blackhawks to a 26-19 halftime advantage.

With their lacking inside presence, Ellsworth's shooters were forced to put up many shots from outside and found more success from deep with 12 of their 19 first-half points coming from behind the three-point line. Three of Ellsworth's first-half three's came from Earney.

"I don't think any coach would put a ceiling on what [Autumn] can do," Janke said. "I'm really proud of the confidence she has to keep shooting, and she's doing her job for us."

Earney and Lynner continued to connect from behind the three-point arc early in the second half, and brought their team within three of B-W at 33-30. When the Blackhawks answered back with two buckets, Caitlin Dahl stepped up and connected twice from the field to maintain the three-point margin.

Dahl said it felt good to get a couple of points up during crunch time especially after just having come back from an ankle injury. The senior post player spoke highly of her senior season even after losing to B-W.

"We learned a lot last year, and we're trying to perfect it this season," Dahl said. "We have a lot more athleticism on the team with Autumn. She's a great athlete and someone that we need on our team. I feel like we're more of a team this year because of our better bond."

After multiple Panther one-pass, one-shot possessions, the Blackhawks went on another run to claim a 10-point advantage over Ellsworth. The Panthers had managed to stay out of foul trouble in the first half of play, but sent their opponents to the free-throw line to shoot bonus shots with 7:57 still left on the clock. The Blackhawks shot 11-14 from the charity stripe to sail away to a 60-46 victory over the Panthers.

Ally Reuvers fouled out with eight minutes left in the game, but Janke said her foul trouble was due to her hard, aggressive play.

"That kid just plays so hard," Janke said. "She did just what we asked her to do at halftime; I'm not pulling that kid out of the game."

Janke also mentioned Nadia Sigler's play, and said that his team's opponents overlook the short guard figuratively and literally.

"She's probably the kid you'd put on the front of the program in terms of the kind of battler and fighter that you've got to have; when the ball is on the floor, she's on the floor," Janke said. "Once we get everybody following that mantra, we'll be in good shape."

The Panthers' challenging schedule won't let up anytime soon as they face more challenging Middle Border Conference opponents, but Janke said his team is continuing to make great strides.

Now at 4-9 on the season, the Panthers are just one win away from matching last year's five wins, but looking back at last year's record isn't at the top of Ellsworth's priority list.

"We're not getting too hung up on that," Janke said. "We certainly want to win games, but we're going to get out and fight and learn. Kids have to get something out of sports other than winning otherwise we're in it for the wrong reasons."

The Panthers head to New Richmond for another Friday night game on Jan. 26.

Boys basketball

The Panthers committed 19 turnovers in their game against the 4-9 New Richmond Tigers, but still found a way to come out on top in their 64-62 victory

After 13 games under their belt, Ellsworth is now 10-3 on the season and 5-1 in MBC play. Last year at this time, the Panthers were just above .500 at 7-6.

A lot of this year's improvement is due to Ellsworth's Logan Benson who recorded 24 points and 15 rebounds against NR. Benson is now averaging 17.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and four assists per game in his junior season.

Drake Flom and Alex Motley have also continued to be loyal contributors in their senior seasons, and were Ellsworth's second and third leading scorers against the Tigers on Tuesday night. Motley finished with 16 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists, while Flom added 12 points, five rebounds and one steal to his team's win.

Also scoring for the Panthers: Cole Woodland 6, Erik Lange 5, Logan Richards 1.

The Panthers are off until Thursday, Jan. 25 when they host St. Croix Central (9-3, 4-2). Tip-off for the game between the second- and third-best teams in the MBC is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 25.