Down Holly Carlson due to injury and with players sidelined with illness, the Ellsworth Panthers girls' basketball team came out with a slow opening half against the Christ's Household of Faith Lions on Thursday, Dec. 6. But when role players were called upon to give the Panthers an edge in their 57-53 victory, they were ready.
After a sluggish first half for the Panthers (2-4, 2-2), which the Lions (2-2) led for the majority, a late Ellsworth run allowed the Panthers to gain a 23-22 advantage heading into the final 18 minutes of play.
Brianna Giese came off the bench in the second half to raise the Panther's energy level and it made all the difference, according to Ellsworth's head coach Janke. Three steals and a critical rebound from Giese got her teammates and Panther fans into "battle mode". Hayley Bach also provided a spark for the home team, netting five second-half points.
"The girls did not play with much energy in the first half," Janke said. "We had to deal with some adversity this week, losing Holly Carlson to injury for awhile and missing a few players in practice due to illness. We threw out a lineup in the second half that has not played much together, and they really responded well. Brianna Giese provides a spark whenever she enters the game."
Janke said the Panthers have been utilizing sophomores Giese and Kaitlyn Peterson in their rotation, specifically one sophomore per half.
"As sophomores we are asking them to lead our JV team and step up and have an effect on the varsity game as well," Janke said. "We are very proud of their work thus far."
Meanwhile, starters Autumn Earney and Kaitlyn Nugent were statistically about as consistent as could be. Earney put up 13 points in each half to lead all scorers with 26 points, and Nugent tallied up 15 points, respectively. Nugent was 2-for-2 and senior Nadia Sigler was 3-for-4 from the free-throw line in the last minute, sealing the 57-53 win for Ellsworth.
Senior Emma Swanson led the defensive side for Ellsworth, continuing her strong, early campaign.
"Earney, Swanson and Nugent pulled the squad together at various points with some big individual plays," Janke said. "We also received solid minutes from many bench players, and it was the difference tonight. We played with some fire in the second half. We just have to get over our stretches where we turn the ball over too easily.
"Tonight was a good win for our girls, and we saw some good things on the court throughout the night."
Next, the Panthers face the Amery Warriors (3-1, 1-1) on the Warriors' home court at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7.
Scoring for Ellsworth: Earney 26; Nugent 15; Hayley Bach 5; Sigler, Olivia Lynner 3; Swanson, Emily Mallon 2; Masen Bach 1.
DEC. 7 GIRLS' BASKETBALL GAMES:
Ellsworth at Amery
Elmwood/Plum City at Colfax
Elk Mound at Spring Valley
St. Croix Central at Prescott