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Longtime fans set up their padded bleacher seats and youngsters raced to the best spots in the Ellsworth gymnasium to get a good view of the event they've been waiting patiently for: the opening night of the 2018-19 high school wrestling season.
Logan Benson has been a part of Ellsworth's boys' basketball team's "Big Three" for the past two seasons. Benson and 2018 graduates Drake Flom and Alex Motley led the Panthers in points, rebounds and assists during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons and carried their team to a 20-5 record during Flom and Motley's final run. While Benson will most likely continue to be a top statistical leader in his final season as a Panther, he's confident in his teammates' abilities to help build on last year's historic season.
On the opening day of the 2018-19 season, Ellsworth's head coach Mark Matzek told his wrestlers that nothing was going to come easy for them as they lined up in the Panthers' wrestling room. "I said, Just because you're here doesn't mean that people are going to lie down for you,'" Matzek said. His wrestlers' acceptance of his message was made clear on day two of practice.
Erica Feuerhelm has always had her sights set on playing collegiate golf down south. Now she's committed to following through with her plans by continuing her golf career at the Division II University of Montevallo in Alabama. "It's pretty amazing," Feuerhelm said. "I've always wanted to go south somewhere to play golf, and it's cool to actually be going down there now." Feuerhelm finalized her decision on Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the Ellsworth gymnasium where she celebrated her past with the Panthers and her future with the Falcons.
The Ellsworth Invitational has been on the Spring Valley/Elmwood wrestling team's radar for nearly a year now. In 2017, the Cardinals left the Panthers' invitational with a ninth place finish and motivation to improve after their humbling performances in Ellsworth. That motivation stuck with the Cardinals throughout their 2017-18 season and allowed their head coach Bill Hofacker to see strong growth in his wrestlers even if it didn't show in the Cardinals' team results.
The Prescott girls' basketball team's head coach Ron Murphy witnessed one of the best defensive efforts ever produced by a Cardinals team on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Murphy's Cardinal (2-0 overall, 1-0 Middle Border Conference) crew defeated Osceola (1-1, 0-1) 70-28 in their home opener on Tuesday night, and held their opponents to a mere eight points at the half, giving themselves a comfortable 38-point lead at the break.
When the Spring Valley boys' basketball team trailed the Eau Claire Immanuel Lancers 13-6 early in their season-opening game, the Cardinals relied on chemistry to pull themselves out of their early rut. "I don't think anyone panicked," Cardinals' head coach Rob Bosshart said. "I don't think anyone started pointing fingers or feeling like they had to start doing things on their own." The Cardinals (1-0) claimed a 52-42 win against the Lancers (1-2) on Tuesday, Nov. 27, and got over their first-game mishaps as the game progressed.
Rob Bosshart can't remember ever coaching a selfish Spring Valley boys' basketball team, but the unselfishness of this year's group of Cardinals sticks out to the veteran coach. "I don't know that we've ever had any really selfish groups, but these guys are way more concerned about the team result than they are about individual accomplishments," Bosshart said. "A lot of the kids we have are really interested in helping others. They like to work with the younger kids, and this didn't just happen when the season started."
Mackenzie Kummer realized she wanted to play collegiate volleyball when she was a freshman in college. Playing basketball at the collegiate level has been on Logan Benson's radar since he was in middle school. Now the two Ellsworth seniors are making their childhood pursuits a reality. Kummer and Benson signed their letters of intent on Wednesday, Nov. 14, but celebrated their decisions with their family, coaches and friends in their high school gym on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
While many high school basketball players spend their offseason perfecting their shots, Kendra Kern has focused on her defensive play since the 2017-18 season. "I love doing it," Kern said when asked about whether or not she enjoys defending point guards. "Even if it's not my girl, I usually say 'I got ball' because I know that I can move my feet quick enough. Last year I struggled a lot because I got too close to my girl when she would come down, but this year I've backed off and I move my feet faster, which I've learned helps a lot."