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Ellsworth handles B-W with ease on senior night

"It's been a wild journey with these guys," Drake Flom said of his four fellow senior teammates. "I've loved every moment of playing with them."

Flom, Alex Motley, Zach Nugent, Logan Betthauser and Isaac Galle — Ellsworth boys basketball team's five seniors — were honored for their basketball careers at the Panthers' senior night on Friday, Feb. 2 where they picked up an 89-57 victory over the Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks.

All five seniors made it in Ellsworth's starting lineup and got their team off to a 13-10 lead over the Blackhawks after the first six minutes of play.

Flom and Motley, Ellsworth's two leading scorers, shared assists and buckets in the first few minutes of play, and the chemistry that the two have created throughout their years of playing together was almost tangible.

"I've played a lot of games with that kid," Flom said of Motley. "Sometimes he drives me nuts, but I love him to death and he's a heck of a player."

Motley led all scorers in Friday night's game with 28 points, and also recorded seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Flom finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one rebound and was honored for scoring his 1,000th career point prior to the start of the game.

Ellsworth's three other usual starters — Logan Benson, Erik Lange and Cole Woodland — were soon subbed in for Nugent, Betthauser and Galle, which helped the Panthers go on a 21-4 run. The Panthers came out in a 2-3 zone with their typical starters, which caused multiple B-W turnovers and ignited Ellsworth's fastbreak offense.

Juniors Benson and Lange connected on two baskets once they were substituted in and showed a glimpse of the chemistry they've created similar to that of Flom and Motley. Benson added 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and one steal to the Panthers' 32-point win, while Lange contributed seven points, five assists, one rebound and one steal.

The Panthers aggressive defense, solid play from all players, and up-tempo offense led them to a 54-25 lead at half.

Motley put up the first points of the second half with a deep three, which was the start of an Ellsworth 13-4 run. The Panthers hit the 70-point mark with 10-and-a-half minutes left to play, which allowed for all Ellsworth varsity players to get some playing time.

At the final buzzer, Ellsworth led 89-57 and picked up its 13th win of the season.

The five seniors combined for 48 points, and were complimented by both head coach Tim Dahl and assistant coach Elliott Jensen after the game.

"They've helped us take the program to another level," Dahl said of his seniors. "They're the leaders of this group, and I'm pretty proud of how they've performed over their careers."

Jensen coached the senior class in youth basketball and said he and Dahl couldn't ask for a better group of seniors. "There's not a bad kid in the group, and it's been an honor to coach them," Jensen said. "They're great basketball players but even better people, and that's a coach's dream."

Motley and Nugent gave the credit of their senior class' success to Jensen after the game. "He's bonded us and has been there the whole time," Motley said of Jensen who has coached the seniors since they were in third grade.

"We're family," Nugent said.

Betthauser described senior night as being ecstatic. "It was fun to start with the guys," Betthauser said. "We have pretty good team comradery and I'm going to miss that a lot."

Galle, who moved to Ellsworth after his freshman year of high school, said he wouldn't have changed his high school basketball experience for anything. "They accepted me right away," Galle said of transitioning into the Panthers team. "I just fit right in with this senior class."

The Panthers could not have asked for a better senior night, but the team has higher hopes for the rest of the season.

"We've got a good energy going and we're having a good time in practice," Nugent said. "We're going to continue to play every game like it's the biggest game of our season."

The Panthers didn't show much room for improvement against the Blackhawks, but they face the 12-3 Durand Panthers on Monday, Feb. 5 and can expect more of a challenge from the Dunn-St. Croix Conference team.

Scoring for the Panthers: Motley 28; Flom 18; Benson 16; Lange, Logan Richards 7; Mason Anderson 6; Ivan Mendez 3; Cole Woodland 2; Betthauser, Nugent 1.