Boys basketball teams around Pierce County have been in action throughout the past week including River Falls and Ellsworth, two teams taking two different paths to what each team hopes is a fruitful …
Boys basketball teams around Pierce County have been in action throughout the past week including River Falls and Ellsworth, two teams taking two different paths to what each team hopes is a fruitful appearance in the postseason.
Starting with the Ellsworth Panthers boys basketball team. The Panthers have quickly become a team that no other team wants to play. Ellsworth is scoring better than they have all season, the defense is clamping other teams, and players are starting to get healthy when it matters most.
The Panthers, as of Tuesday, Feb. 8, have a 5-10 overall record, including a 4-7 record in the Middle Border Conference. After losing four straight games between Tuesday, Jan. 18, and Thursday, Jan. 27, Ellsworth has since rolled off two straight wins against Saint Croix Central and Amery, both teams in the MBC.
The Tuesday night, Feb. 1, home game against Saint Croix Central was without question the biggest win of the season for Ellsworth. Saint Croix Central went into the game ranked as one of the ten best teams in the state for Division 3 basketball and left with a 69-64 loss in double overtime.
The game against SCC was the first game back from injury for Ellsworth star point guard Jack Janke, who wasted no time putting his scoring ability on full display. At halftime, Ellsworth led SCC 22-20 in a game that looked like it was going to be a low-scoring defensive affair.
In the second half, both teams battled hard to try to put scoring runs together. At the end of regulation, SCC and Ellsworth were tied 57-57 and headed into overtime. In the first overtime, both teams scored seven points which sent the game to a second overtime. In those final minutes of the second overtime, Ellsworth outscored SCC 5-0 to secure a 69-64 win against one of the best teams in the state.
Janke was the dominant player in the game, as he led all scorers for the night with 33 total points coming on 9-26 shooting from the floor. More than a third of his offensive damage was done at the charity stripe, where he shot 13-16. He also grabbed 14 rebounds, dished for four assists and grabbed two steals in the victory.
After the last-second thriller against Saint Croix Central, Ellsworth traveled to Amery to take on the Warriors, a team that has struggled this season and has yet to get a victory in Middle Border Conference play.
Ellsworth cruised past Amery en route to an 81-41 victory to win the Panthers’ second straight game for the second time this season. With Janke back in the lineup and the defense clicking, Ellsworth is hitting its stride at the perfect time of the season, just weeks before the playoffs begin.
The next game on the schedule for Ellsworth is on Tuesday, Feb. 8, when the Panthers travel to Elk Mound for a 7:15 p.m. non-conference matchup with the Mounders.
River Falls struggles against Rice Lake in 60-48 defeat
On Saturday, Feb. 5, the River Falls Wildcats traveled to Rice Lake for an evening matchup with the Warriors. The Wildcats struggled offensively against Rice Lake, scoring only 13 points in the first half.
The 14-point first half dug the Wildcats a hole that was going to be nearly impossible to get out of. Rice Lake put up 29 in the first half and went into the break with a 16-point advantage. Throughout the 18 minutes of the second half, the Wildcats battled back.
However, the halftime deficit was too much to overcome. River Falls outscored the Warriors 35-31 in the second half but were still defeated 60-48, which dropped the Wildcats to 15-4 for the season, including an 8-3 record in Big Rivers Conference play.
With the loss, it’s going to be nearly impossible to catch Eau Claire Memorial in the conference standings (10-1) with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season and no more head-tohead matchups remaining.
The next game on the schedule for River Falls is on Friday, Feb. 11, at home against Eau Claire North. In their first meeting this season, River Falls defeated Eau Claire North 46-35. The Friday night game is slated to tip-off at 7:15 p.m.