Despite another relentless effort, a ninth Middle Border Conference loss was in store for the Ellsworth Panthers on Friday, Feb. 1, in Osceola.
Osceola's Katie Haase had 14 first-half points in leading her host Chieftains (9-9, 6-5) to a commanding halftime lead in Friday night's MBC showdown. Despite a late charge by Ellsworth (5-13, 2-9) that cut the lead to six with 4:30 remaining, the Chieftains had enough to pull away for the 67-50 win.
Emily Fox and Brooke Bents balanced Haase's inside dominance in the opening half with two 3-pointers apiece, which really put the Panther defense in a conundrum, according to Ellsworth's head coach Jason Janke.
"You have to give Osceola credit, they made some shots that they had not hit in games lately, and when you combine the outside shooting they had tonight with how difficult it is to contain a 5'11" player with our lack of height, it's not a good situation," Janke said.
While playing some solid defense in the opening half, Ellsworth could not find good rhythm on offense enroute to only scoring 21 points. Autumn Earney worked hard inside for eight of those, while Kaitlyn Nugent drilled two long 3s to start the game.
The second half found the Panthers clawing back and outscoring their hosts, but it was not enough to mount a win. A Claire Straub 3-pointer late in the second half cut the Osceola lead to six with under five minutes to play, but once again, the Chieftains were able to withstand the rally and finish while keeping Ellsworth at a distance.
Nugent was a big part of the second half comeback, going for 10 of her team-leading 16 after halftime, while Olivia Lynner provided a spark off the bench, with five of her own.
"While things were close early on, we let them get away a little bit too far midway through the first half and that was the difference," Janke said. "(Haase) provides difficulties for us, but when we moved Emma on to her in the second half, we were able to keep her at bay. The problem was that they hit several shots by some players that haven't been scoring a bunch, so you have to give them credit."
The Panthers held Haase to four second-half points but allowed her teammates to score from outside.
"We received really good play from our bench tonight, with Brianna Giese, Olivia Lynner and Nadia Sigler giving us really good minutes," Janke said. "Overall, we just didn't shoot the ball well enough to maintain consistency on the offensive end. We are working on getting some inside scoring, but it's a challenge when teams are as significantly bigger in the lane as Osceola is. The girls never gave in, as the late closing of the lead attests."
The Panthers are down to just two weeks left in the regular season, and they'll begin their final four-game stretch on Tuesday, Feb. 5, when they host the Prescott Cardinals (15-2, 10-1).
Scoring for Panthers: Nugent 16; Earney 13; Swanson 8; Lynner, Straub 5; Giese 3.
The Prescott Cardinals have now won four games in a row after dropping their first two losses of the season during the week of Jan. 14. Their most recent addition to their new win streak came on Saturday, Feb. 2, when they claimed an 86-80 win over Division 4’s No. 7-ranked Durand Panthers.
The Cardinals (15-2, 10-1) left the court with a 37-21 lead at halftime but were outscored 59-49 in the hot shooting second half of play.
Durand’s (14-2) Emily Annis led all scorers with 29 points, and Prescott’s Bella Lenz followed closely with 22 of her own. Haylee Yaeger, Allie Murphy and Kaelyn Lewis also finished in double figures for the Cardinals; Yaeger added 18 points, Murphy recorded 16 and Lewis tallied 11.
Prior to their big win over Durand, the Cardinals added a Middle Border Conference win to their record by defeating Baldwin-Woodville 69-54 on Friday, Feb. 1.
Yaeger finished with 23 points for the Cardinals, Murphy added 13 and Lenz chipped in 12.
The Cardinals will travel to Ellsworth on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The Spring Valley Cardinals came up with their third win of the season on Saturday, Feb. 2, after defeating the Turtle Lake Turtles on their home court by a 53-23 decision.
The Cardinals (3-13, 2-9) only allowed five Turtle Lake (0-18) points in the second half and were led in scoring by Lexi Johansen who finished with 17 points for the Cardinals. Lydia Wittmer also scored in double-digits in her 10-point performance, and Sandy Bune added nine points to the Cardinals’ win.
The Cardinals faced a tougher challenge on Friday, Feb. 1, when they hosted the No. 7-ranked Durand Panthers (14-2, 10-1). Durand claimed a 78-26 victory over the Cardinals and delivered their hosts their ninth Dunn-St. Croix Conference lost.
Durand’s Leah Sabelko led all scorers with 14 points while Morgan Rustad finished as the Cardinals’ leading scorer after recording seven points in her team’s defeat.
The Cardinals will continue their season on Tuesday, Feb. 5, by hosting the Elmwood/Plum City Wolves (1-16, 0-10).