Week 1 Girls Basketball Roundup

Ellsworth defeats River Falls; SV, EPC tally losses, but remain hopeful

By Joe Peine
Posted 11/22/23

The Ellsworth Panthers finished week 1 with a record of 1-1 having beaten the River Falls Wildcats 47-24 on Tuesday and losing to the Osseo-Fairchild Thunder 59-48 on Thursday.

Head Coach Jason …

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Week 1 Girls Basketball Roundup

Ellsworth defeats River Falls; SV, EPC tally losses, but remain hopeful


The Ellsworth Panthers finished week 1 with a record of 1-1 having beaten the River Falls Wildcats 47-24 on Tuesday and losing to the Osseo-Fairchild Thunder 59-48 on Thursday.

Head Coach Jason Janke is very pleased with his team’s performance early on.

“Our kids played outstanding defense and rebounded the ball about as well as any team I've coached. We surrendered very few ‘second shot opportunities’ to River Falls,” Janke said. “Our kids know the River Falls girls pretty well, they realize how talented they are so we never let up our effort, even as we pulled away in the scoring column. The lead did not feel safe until late.”

Janke says they got off to a good start offensively, which is always important in a season opener, according to Janke. The team showed scoring balance as well, following the lead of last year’s leading scorer Molly Janke's unselfishness, as she used several drives for drop-off baskets to teammates.

The critical piece to the game was the back-to-back three-pointers by Emma Brown to close the first half, though. She took a 20-8 game to 26-8 in the last 2:00 of the half, which is a huge momentum swing, according to Coach Janke.

Osseo-Fairchild was a much more competitive game. Janke says the difference in this one was a stretch of uneven play in the first period.

“We shot 14% from the field in the first half and missed our first six free-throws, so, in a nutshell, that's what went wrong. We could not find the basket early, and that's with getting some very good looks at the hoop,” Janke said. “We played very good defense, but we're at a point in high school basketball where you just have to be able to shoot the ball better than we did in the first 18-24 minutes of that game.”

Coach Janke says the team picked it up in the second period though.

“Morgan Halverson finally warmed up in the shooting department, scoring 12 of her 17 points in the second half as we pulled within two possessions on two occasions after trailing by as many as 18 at one point,” Janke said. “On the plus side, our girls showed great attitude and resiliency in fighting back to get the game as close as they did. After a horrendous first half at the free throw line, we made 10 of 16 second-half freebies.” 

The top two scoring leaders after week 1 are Morgan Halverson with 26 points and 18 rebounds and Molly Janke with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

The Panthers’ next game will come against the Altoona Railroaders, a game that Janke says will be tough.

“Altoona is predicted to go to the state tournament by many. We'll work hard to stay in the game by limiting second shots and open 3-point looks,” Janke said.

The Panthers will host the Railroaders for that contest which will tip off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Elmwood-Plum City

The Elmwood-Plum City Wolves lost to the Eleva-Strum Cardinals by a score of 63-26 on Thursday night in Plum City.

Head Coach Paige Saniter recognizes their first game was rough, but notes there were some positive things that came from it.

“Our team is very young. My starters on Thursday night consisted of three freshmen, one junior - who is my only returning varsity player - and one senior. Our first half consisted of a lot of nerves, uncertainty, and a whole lot of turnovers. I feel this is to be expected when it comes to three young players who haven't ever experienced a varsity basketball floor and five girls who are just beginning to learn to play together,” Saniter said. “After the half and getting our first game jitters out, I believe we played much more to our potential. We discovered some team chemistry and strengths we can most definitely utilize. Our defense cleaned up, our aggressiveness kicked up, and our team started to come together.” 

There were many positive efforts that stood out to Saniter in Week 1.

“We had a freshman, Allie Sauve, step up and score 16 points for us. She was aggressive, taking the ball to the hoop and hustling the entire floor for the entire game,” Saniter said. “My only returning varsity player, Hailey Webb, did an excellent job hustling up and down the court. She was constantly guiding and encouraging our younger players on the court. Uplifting them at all the right moments, while giving me everything she had.”

Saniter says the work ethic and drive her team has shown is one of the things that you can’t see when looking at the box score.

“No matter the score or the situation they gave me their all. That's hard to beat as a coach,” Saniter said. “We had sophomore Hannah Fesenmaier come off the bench on a running clock and go into the game with just a few minutes remaining. Willow Cripe tipped away a ball, chased it up the court, and dove to gain possession. She passed the ball to Hannah, and she scored a buzzer beater shot. Our entire bench shot to their feet, hands in the air, and cheered like we had just won the state championship. That is the positive outlook every coach wants on their team. I was overwhelmingly proud of them at that moment, on top of what I was already feeling from the rest of the game.”  

With the season underway, the Wolves will be focusing on highlighting some newfound strengths and cleaning up their defense for their next outing, according to Saniter. That game will be played in two weeks against Thorp at Colfax High School on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10:15 a.m.

Spring Valley

The Spring Valley Cardinals lost to the Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran Lancers by a score of 56-31 on Thursday night in Spring Valley.

As a team, the Cardinals struggled in their first game of the season. They went 9-35 on field goals and 3-15 on three-point attempts with 30 turnovers to just seven steals.

The silver lining player of the game was Mara Ducklow who led the Cardinals in scoring at 16, going 5-12 from the field, 5-8 on free throws and 1-3 on 3-point attempts. She also got roughly half of the full team total of rebounds, assists and steals.

Head Coach Sean Hoolihan says they’re playing shorthanded right now, and that worked against them.

“We are dealing with some injuries right now, so some of our younger players had to step in. They did a great job, but just wasn't enough for us to get over the hump,” Hoolihan said. “Our girls played pretty tough. We kept it close early on but ran out of gas, and it got away from us. We would battle back and cut the lead to 12-10 but then had a lull, and they would pull away.” 

The Cardinals know that a 0-1 start affects half of all teams this week, so they aren’t sweating it. Coach Hoolihan says they’re just going to keep doing what they’re doing, and the rest will come.

“We just need to keep playing hard and stay healthy. Keep working on the fundamentals and try to improve each and every day,” Hoolihan said.

The Cardinal’s next game will come on Tuesday when they travel to Chetek to take on the Bulldogs. Tip off for that game is at 6 p.m.

River Falls

The River Falls Wildcats fell to the Ellsworth Panthers on Friday in River Falls by a score of 47-24.

It was a rough start for a Wildcats team that has finished at the bottom of the conference the last three years after winning it all in 2019. Coming into the season, the goal is to get back to the top of the conference, but in week 1 the Wildcats just couldn’t get anything going offensively.

As a team, they were 9-47 on field goals, 6-9 on free throws and 0-17 on 3-point attempts. They got 20 total rebounds but only one assist. From an individual team standpoint, the Wildcats’ two top shooters combined to go 3-21 on shots from the field and 0-9 on three-point attempts, although they were a perfect 4-4 on free throws. In order for River Falls to be more competitive, they will have to work hard to right the ship.

The silver lining player of the game for the Wildcats was Jordan Schwantz who led them in scoring, shooting 43% from the field, 1-2 on free throws and added three rebounds to her contribution.

River Falls’ next game will come on Tuesday when they travel to Colfax to play the Vikings. Tip off is at 7:15 p.m.

Ellsworth Panthers, River Falls Wildcats, EPC Wolves, Spring Valley Cardinals, girls basketball