Osceola controls second half at Ellsworth
Ellsworth's girls basketball team's most recent win came on Jan. 4 against the Osceola Chieftains on the road. The Panthers were confident they'd pick up their fifth win of the season on Thursday, Feb. 1 when they faced the Chieftains at home, but were in for a rude awakening after halftime of the two teams' second matchup that ended at 56-37 in Osceola's favor.
The Panthers forced nine Osceola turnovers and outshot their conference opponents in the first half of play, which boosted them to a 21-18 lead at the break. Autumn Earney had nine points in the first half and assisted an Olivia Lynner three that gave Ellsworth the lead in the final minute of the opening half.
But the Panthers went cold when the last 18 minutes of the game began.
Osceola started the second half on a 15-0 run and didn't allow Ellsworth to score until 11:34 remained on the clock.
"We just kind of settled," Earney said. "We came out [in the second half] and we were settled, and we just thought we had the game."
Emma Swanson scored Ellsworth's first second-half points with a three that the Panthers hoped would spark their offense, but the team only scored 13 more points for the remainder of the game while giving up 26 and sending Osceola to the free-throw line 10 more times.
Osceola's Mia Campeau led all scorers with 19 points, nine of which came from the charity stripe.
On a positive note for the Panthers, Holly Carlson got some minutes during Ellsworth's cold streak and finished her first varsity game with five points.
"It felt really good out there," Carlson said.
The sophomore was told by head coach Jason Janke that she could expect to get some time on the court during the halftime break. Carlson said she was nervous at first, as expected, but was pleased with her own performance and said, "I will never forget this moment."
Carlson said it was a disappointing loss for her team, but that they'd come back out next week and get over this loss.
Carlson and Earney both said their transitions from JV and varsity have been smooth thanks to their caring upperclassmen who have welcomed them onto the varsity team.
Earney led the Panthers with 12 points on Thursday night and has shown signs of hope for the future of the Ellsworth girls basketball program.
But the Panthers still have four games left of this year's regular season, which they'll set their focus on before considering what the team could be in the years to come.
Ellsworth is now 4-12 overall and 1-10 in Middle Border Conference play. The Panthers head to Prescott on Tuesday, Feb. 6 to take on the MBC's third-place Cardinals team who defeated Baldwin-Woodville 55-39 on Thursday night.