Ellsworth boys lose playoff overtime thriller against Osceola

Posted 3/8/22

By Reagan Hoverman When the Ellsworth boys basketball team turned the ball over on the final possession of the first-round playoff game on the road against Osceola, it cost the Panthers the game and …

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Ellsworth boys lose playoff overtime thriller against Osceola


By Reagan Hoverman

When the Ellsworth boys basketball team turned the ball over on the final possession of the first-round playoff game on the road against Osceola, it cost the Panthers the game and it also epitomized the season for Ellsworth – so close, yet so far.

The Tuesday, March 1 playoff game on the road against Osceola was a familiar matchup for the Ellsworth Panthers. The two teams met twice previously this season; Osceola won both games by an average margin of 18 points. The first-round playoff game came down to the wire and went to overtime where Osceola outscored Ellsworth 12-7 to secure a 74-69 victory.

At no point in this game did either team have a significant lead. From the opening tip, it was a gritty, physical playoff game. With five minutes left in the first half, Osceola led 19-18. That’s when Ellsworth senior three-point specialist Spencer Schultz made a deep three to take a 21-19 lead.

After a stop on the defensive end, senior point guard Jack Janke made a pass that sliced through the defense and found senior guard Tanner Pechacek for a wide-open layup to give Ellsworth a 23-19 lead.

Janke often got to the free throw line and in the last four minutes of the half went 3-4 at the line which helped generate a 26-22 halftime lead on the road for the Panthers. Ellsworth seniors were critical in securing the first-half lead, specifically, Schultz and Janke, who accounted for 19 of the Panthers’ 26 points going into the intermission.

In the second half, the Osceola three-point shooting began to heat up which got the student section and hometown crowd involved. Perhaps no Chieftain more than junior Brayden Bradway, who had five points in the first minute of the second half.

With six minutes left in the second half, Bradway made a three-pointer to cut the Ellsworth lead to three points, which forced a timeout by Panthers head coach Jordan Petersen. Coming out of the timeout, Osceola senior Luke Haase made a layup which was followed by another Bradway layup on the ensuing Chieftain possession to take a 50-49 lead with under five minutes to play.

With 50 seconds left in overtime, Janke made a driving layup to tie the score 62-62. Osceola’s missed last-second shot sent the game to a four-minute overtime period. The difference in that extra frame was free throw shooting. Osceola converted at the line and Ellsworth didn’t. After the game, coach Petersen spoke about the game.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game and matchup for us with their size and physicality,” Petersen said. “We knew it was going to be extremely physical and that it was going to be a dog fight. Bradway is a great player and he showed that tonight.”

While Bradway shot the lights out of the gym with his five three-pointers and 27 total points, Ellsworth lost the game in the rebounding and turnover battles, which Petersen said were two critical aspects of the matchup with Osceola.

“(Rebounding and turnovers), we had emphasized those going into the game,” Petersen said. “We felt if we could rebound and take care of the ball that in the end, we would be successful. Early on, we dribbled in too deep to their pack defense. They got some turnovers and easy buckets off of that.”

Ellsworth trailed by three with 25 seconds remaining in overtime. Petersen called a timeout and drew up a play for his team to run to attempt to tie the game. As they ran the play, the ball got tipped, fumbled and ended up in Osceola’s hands. Petersen spoke about that final play of Ellsworth’s season.

“It was drawn up for Spencer (Schultz),” Petersen said. “Early in that first half they started switching screens and we hurt them with the flare screen, so we were trying to get Jack (Janke) coming off and a flare for Spencer (Schultz). It was just a couple of inches off and he could have caught it cleaner. We live with it, it happens.”

The last-second loss encapsulates the 2021-22 iteration of the Ellsworth Panthers boys basketball team. Throughout the season, Ellsworth had been close to winning a lot of games and often came up short. They fought through adversity, losing Janke in the first game of the year against Prescott.

His ankle injury took longer to heal than anyone expected, including Janke, who missed more than half of the year, before finally returning against Saint Croix Central, a game in which he dropped 33 points and beat one of the best teams in the state. Petersen spoke about how he will remember this season.

“This game is kind of the epitome of who we are,” Petersen said. “We started 0-4, Jack (Janke) went down immediately, we had a couple of stretches where we didn’t win for two or three weeks. Our guys just kept battling and there was never any give-up in them. I’m so proud of that and that’s who they are.”

The passion with which Ellsworth played on Tuesday night was no surprise. Petersen said it’s a group of fighters that would do anything to win. As the players came out of the locker room, tears were visible in many eyes, especially for the seniors who had just played the last game of their high school careers.

For Petersen, this is a senior group that will always be special to him. It’s his first class that he’s coached from freshman through senior year. He spoke about his senior group of boys.

“This is my first group of seniors that I’ve seen through,” Petersen said. “This one hurts me especially hard. I’ve been able to see them grow as people and that’s been great. I’ll remember games, but especially the character guys that they are, their work ethic and the type of people they are. That’s what I’ll take away from this group. They will be successful in whatever they do.”