Posted 3/29/22

__________________ When Ellsworth senior point guard Jack Janke went down with an ankle injury early in the 2021-22 season, senior Spencer Schultz took over the reins offensively, helped the team …

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When Ellsworth senior point guard Jack Janke went down with an ankle injury early in the 2021-22 season, senior Spencer Schultz took over the reins offensively, helped the team stay on course and earned MBC All-Conference Honorable Mention for his efforts.

When a star player goes down with a significant injury in the first game of the season, teams often get derailed and mail it in the rest of the year, often citing the injury and using it as an excuse.

Throughout the season, Ellsworth head coach Jordan Petersen refused to use Janke’s injury as an excuse for the team’s performance. Instead, he focused on his players learning new roles. Many of those players had to step up after the aforementioned injury, perhaps none more than Schultz.

Previously, Schultz had been a part-time ball handler and a good two-way player that could shoot the three-pointer well if he got into a rhythm. Much of that stayed the same, except with Janke gone, Schultz had the ball in his hands nearly the whole game – he became Ellsworth’s new floor general.

After a game earlier this season at the Menomonie Holiday Showcase near the end of December, Ellsworth was struggling to find new roles for its players. Ellsworth head coach Jordan Petersen spoke about finding roles and how that process takes time.

“We’re just trying to find roles,” Petersen said. “There are guys that have played with Jack (Janke) their whole life. (Finding new roles) has been a struggle for us. It’s a process and I think we’re taking steps there.”

Ellsworth continued to take steps in the right direction until new roles began to click in the first two weeks of January when the Panthers won three out of four games in two weeks. Those victories were in large part thanks to Schultz, who found his stroke offensively.

In the Tuesday, Jan. 11 game at home against Somerset, a 58-54 win for Ellsworth, Schultz led all scorers for the night. He finished the game shooting 8-16 from the floor, including 5-12 from the three-point line and 5-6 at the free throw line for a total of 21 points. In addition to being the primary offensive force, he also tallied 16 rebounds and one block for his final stat line.

After Ellsworth’s 67-54 loss on the road against Prescott, coach Petersen spoke about Schultz and fellow senior Alex Coulthard’s development offensive and how they stepped up throughout the season in Janke’s absence.

“It’s been an adjustment for Spencer (Schultz) to have to bring up the ball,” Petersen said. “They’ve stepped up to the challenge every night and it’s been up and down, but they’re continuing to work and are trying to get better every day.”

Schultz finished the 2021-22 season as the second-leading scorer for the Panthers with 11.7 points per game, and also second in rebounding for the team with 6.6 boards per game. Although it ended in defeat, Schultz’s best game of the year was also the final game of his high school career, a 74-69 overtime loss on the road against Osceola in the first round of the playoffs.

In that game, Schultz finished with 20 points on an efficient 6-13 shooting, all of which came from behind the three-point line. He also went 2-2 at the free throw line and grabbed seven rebounds in the five-point defeat.

By that time in the season, Tuesday, March 1, Janke had long since returned from his ankle injury. However, when trailing by three late in overtime, coach Petersen designed the threepoint play for Schultz, who had taken on a whole new offensive identity throughout the year.

Although Ellsworth lost that game, it showcased Schultz’s growth throughout the year, both offensively and defensively. His efforts to continue improving showed up on the stat sheet during the season and at the end of the year, it earned him Middle Border Conference All-Conference Honorable Mention.