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Girls' basketball: Limited offense hurts Ellsworth's chances against SCC

Ellsworth junior co-captain Kaitlyn Nugent led all scorers with 13 points in Ellsworth's 45-30 loss to St. Croix Central on Friday, Jan. 11. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Ellsworth sophomore Autumn Earney recorded 12 of her team's 30 points in its 45-30 loss to St. Croix Central on Friday, Jan. 11. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

It's difficult to win games when your team's shots aren't falling. Allowing your opponents to make shots from all areas of the court doesn't help matters, either.

That was the predicament the Ellsworth Panthers girls' basketball team (4-9, 1-6) found itself in on Friday, Jan. 11, when the hosts dropped a 45-30 Middle Border Conference game to the visiting St. Croix Central Panthers (3-11, 2-5).

"SCC shot the ball very well tonight. We give them credit for the game tonight; they went after it," Ellsworth's head coach Jason Janke said. "We, for whatever reason, had our poorest game scoring the ball that we've had all season."

Only four Ellsworth players made it into the scoring column in Friday night's game, and junior co-captain Kaitlyn Nugent and sophomore Autumn Earney accounted for 25 of Ellsworth's 30 points. Seven SCC players scored against Ellsworth, and no visiting Panther had more than 10 points on the night.

Ellsworth created multiple scoring opportunities from their season-high steal count in the first half but was only able to convert one picked-off pass or loose ball into a made layup. Ellsworth gave up few points in the paint in the first half, but SCC's hot hands from outside won the numbers game. SCC finished with seven made 3-pointers, five of which came in the first half, while Ellsworth was only able to hit two shots from behind the 3-point arc.

SCC's Abigail Widiker hit three of her team's seven 3-point shots and sunk a dagger to extend her team's lead to 22-14 with one minute, 40 seconds left to go in the first half. Nugent and SCC's Katherine Cottrell traded buckets before the break, and the visiting Panthers headed into the locker room with a 24-16 lead after the first 18 minutes of play.

Another Widiker 3 gave SCC an 11-point lead with 15:24 to go in the game, which forced Ellsworth to call a timeout and switch to a man-to-man defense. Earney and Nugent provided more hope for their team by hitting back-to-back buckets out of the timeout to close the gap to 29-22, but after Kolbi Juen notched two free throws to give SCC a 31-22 lead at the 12:55 mark, Ellsworth failed to get within seven points for the remainder of the game.

Ellsworth only committed three team fouls in the first half, but once SCC found more scoring opportunities in the paint in the second half, Ellsworth began to pour on the fouls. Cottrell led SCC with 10 points in Friday's game and took advantage of Ellsworth's fronting defense in the paint, which allowed her to convert lob passes into easy bunnies or trips to the free-throw line.

Offensively, Ellsworth struggled to get in a rhythm in their half-court offense throughout the game and only made two field goals in the final nine minutes of the game; Claire Straub hit a corner 3-pointer, and Brianna Giese made the final bucket of the night. But it was SCC who got the last laugh.

"When you're down by nine points, that's when we have to slow the ball down and make sure everyone gets a touch, then look for a bucket," Ellsworth's senior co-captain Emma Swanson said. "I don't think we really did that tonight. When we needed a bucket, we didn't get one. We didn't find a way to get to the foul line when we needed to."

"It's pretty rare to win a game when the ball just won't fall," Janke said. "We had one of those tonight. We hope to get back on track next week."

"Especially being a Friday game, I think it's going to show a lot how we show up to practice on Monday," Swanson said. "If everybody gets to work and puts their head down, that'll be a good thing to see. We just have to remind everybody that it's one game."

Ellsworth will travel to Baldwin-Woodville High School on Tuesday, Jan. 15, for a conference matchup against the 6-6, 4-2 Blackhawks.

Scoring for Ellsworth: Nugent 13, Earney 12, Claire Straub 3, Brianna Giese 2.