ELLSWORTH - On its way to victory, leading by nine points midway through the third quarter, Ellsworth collapsed Thursday evening against Amery.

The Warriors outscored the Panthers 31-6 for the duration of the game and won the Middle Border Conference contest 53-37.

Foul trouble hurt a Panthers squad that led 31-22. But a lack of leadership also hurt when things started to go wrong.

"Give Amery credit for playing physical defense against us on the perimeter and clogging the penetration lanes," Ellsworth coach Cory Brathol said. "We didn't do a good job adjusting to their defensive effort. We didn't get the ball down low enough to counter this.

"We didn't have the leadership to figure out how to turn ourselves around on the court while they did have somebody they turned to to fix their problems."

That someone Brathol pointed out was Amery senior Erik Loverude.

He scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, including three 3-pointers and eight free throws. His teammate, Kurt Gehrmann, finished with 12 points.

Free-throw shooting also was a factor as the Panthers had just two opportunities at the line compared to Amery's 23. The Warriors made 17 free-throw attempts.

The Panthers, however, continued to struggle, scoring only four points in the fourth quarter. Amery scored 20.

"You can get by floating around there without leadership when things are going well," Brathol said.

"But you can't do that when you start to struggle and nobody steps up to rally the team together. Hopefully we have enough time left in the season to find someone who can do this."

Ellsworth was led in scoring by Nick Niedfeldt, who sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 20-17 halftime lead. He finished with 14 points.

Caleb Peterson had eight points and Drew Hipple added seven.

After winning two straight, Ellsworth dropped to 7-11 overall and 4-8 in conference action.