Girls’ basketball post-season roundup

Saints topple Ellsworth Panthers; Prescott knocked off in regional finals

SV, EPC, RF all succumb to opponents as postseason comes to a close

By Joe Peine
Posted 2/28/24

The Ellsworth Panthers were defeated by the St. Croix Falls Saints on Friday night in Ellsworth by a score of 48-43. It was a disappointing end to a successful season for the Panthers who had high …

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Girls’ basketball post-season roundup

Saints topple Ellsworth Panthers; Prescott knocked off in regional finals

SV, EPC, RF all succumb to opponents as postseason comes to a close


The Ellsworth Panthers were defeated by the St. Croix Falls Saints on Friday night in Ellsworth by a score of 48-43. It was a disappointing end to a successful season for the Panthers who had high hopes of making a run in the playoffs.

Ellsworth played things pretty closely in the first period, going shot for shot with the Saints for most of it. However, by halftime, they were down 29-21, and that would be the difference in the game. The Panthers actually gained ground in the second half, nearly tying it up in the final minutes of the game at 43-42, but St. Croix Falls won the turnover battle at the end and sank the free throws they needed to hold on and take the 48-43 victory.

Molly Janke led the way in the final game of her varsity career, putting up 25 of Ellsworth’s 43 points.

Ellsworth entered the postseason as the four-seed after posting a 15-9 overall record in the regular season. Friday was the Panthers’ first game as they had a first-round bye on Thursday.

Kayla Kressin is one of the Panthers’ four captains, all of whom are seniors who will be leaving the team after this season.

“I feel like we had the best crowd we've ever had tonight, and that was just amazing to me,” Kressin said. “I'm happy for the future generations of girls basketball players, I hope that we've made an impact.”

Maria Harrington is another senior captain who won’t be returning.

“I'm just proud of the way we stuck together,” Harrington said. “Even when we were getting down a lot, we still stuck together and stuck through it. Even though some days we had struggles, we still made it through the entire season and never lost that.”

Aubrey Wittenberg is the third captain from the 2024 Panthers leadership group who has played her last game in a Panthers uniform.

“We played a lot of basketball together. And, you know, it's tough that it's over, but I'm excited for the generation coming up in the program that we’re building,” Wittenberg said.

Janke is the final member of the senior group of girls that formed the core of the Panthers’ team these last four years. In her time in Ellsworth, she exceeded every expectation and broke most of the records.

“I hope our season this year was inspiring to the younger girls and gets them to work hard in the offseason. We have a good couple of eighth grade girls coming up, so I think the future is looking pretty bright,” Janke said. “Obviously, we're pretty bummed. We thought we could lengthen our season a little farther than we did, but sometimes it just doesn't go our way. We all love each other, we’re proud of each other and we stuck together through it all. Nothing to be ashamed for about that.”

The Panthers’ program will be looking at some significant turnover after this season with seven total seniors leaving the team, including the four captains. Head Coach Jason Janke says it’ll probably be a long time until you see such a top-heavy squad come through Ellsworth again.

“You'll go a decade or two without seeing that in this day and age. You know, kids just don't stick together. They don't play if they’re not stars, and these kids fought hard together. They love each other, and they're each other's best friends,” Janke said. “It's a punch to the gut. There's a few things here at the end that are tough to take. There was a lot of scrum action on this side of the court that was tough to watch when it turned into some free throws for them on the other end. But, you’ve got to make shots. We didn't make free throws in the first half, and so that's probably the difference in the game.”

It’s easy to look back and say x, y and z could’ve been better, but the Panthers put forth maximum effort against a good team. They played a great season and won a lot of games together; things just didn’t go their way this time. One thing can be said for sure: this group of girls raised the bar and set a new standard of excellence for the Panthers program.

Middle Border: Prescott

The Prescott Cardinals won their first game of the regional tournament against Barron on Friday 45-37 but lost in the regional finals against Somerset 66-55. It was a bitter end for a team that had higher aspirations, especially after being thwarted at the very end in their pursuit of a sixth consecutive conference championship.

Game one went fairly well. It was touch and go for a while, especially at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. However, high level play by star shooters Lila Posthuma and Violet Otto, as well as a good showing from Rory Zuehlsdorf, headlined the night as Prescott pulled away at the end.

The second game didn’t go as they had hoped, however.

Head Coach Owen Hamilton says he thinks his team played well, but you have to give credit to a great performance by Somerset.

“It sucks, you have to tip your cap to them. I thought they played as good of a game as I’ve seen so far this season,” Hamilton said. “I think Lila did a good job. She finished with 21 points, 17 rebounds and six assists while guarding a very solid player and doing a great job. I also think Megan Richter did a solid job as well, and Rory Zuehlsdorf was doing a good job defensively too.” 

Posthuma’s 17 rebounds are outstanding on their own, but she recently set the all-time school record for rebounds and broke 1,000 points along the way.

“It means a lot to break this record, and it is one of the most special accomplishments I have achieved because I feel like rebounding is very overlooked compared to scoring records,” Posthuma said. “I take rebounding drills seriously in practice and go 100% every rep, but it is mainly the ‘want’ to rebound. Obviously, it is very physical to rebound but also having the right mindset to go get the ball is so important.”

Posthuma is leaving behind some big shoes to fill and a tremendous legacy. Her advice to younger athletes is to always show up.

“It’s so important to participate in everything because, in the long run, you will see results and growth. You also have to work hard and have the right attitude,” Posthuma said.

Posthuma is one of just three Cardinals to be leaving the team after graduation, the other two are Avery Pattridge and Richter.

Coach Hamilton says they’re still looking at options for what the rest of the team will do in the offseason, but he’s going to confer with the players and other coaches to get things set up soon. As far as next season, even though they will lose one of the best players to ever come through the Cardinals’ program in Posthuma, Hamilton says this won’t change how they go about their business.

“I’ve always been a next man up mentality kind of person. So, for me it’s going to be fun to see who’s up to the challenge, and I think we’ve got some girls that are ready for that,” Hamilton said. “I guess my final thoughts on the year would be how proud I am of our girls. We might not have won some of the big awards or trophies that we were going for, which sucks, but they played so hard all season and did everything we asked them to do. At the end of the day, I just consider myself lucky to be with a group like I had, which is a super coach-speak answer, but I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

Big Rivers: River Falls

The River Falls Wildcats won their first playoff game on Tuesday against Wausau East 62-51, but then lost their second game against the Menomonie Mustangs on Friday 48-33.

It was a tough draw seeding wise for the Wildcats who had to play the 2022-23 Big Rivers Champion Mustangs just a week after losing to them in the final game of the regular season.

With the season at its end, the Wildcats look at what the future of their program will be like after losing five seniors who formed the core of this Wildcats team. Cheyenne Wilson, Keyah Strop, Jordan Torrez, Emily Van Ausdal and Jordan Schwantz will all be leaving the team in the offseason, said Head Coach Ian Sticht.

“You realize you're probably going to lose eventually in the postseason, but there's a difference of losing a game where you feel really good about how you played. We did what we wanted to do, we just couldn't score for a period of time, but we kind of took away what we thought they were pretty good at and made them do some different things offensively to get their points,” Sticht said. “These girls have played basketball together since first grade, so they're always going to be a lot of emotions afterwards, but I still think we collectively felt overall we played hard and give them a good battle and we're pretty proud of the way we played them.”

Coach Sticht says they got some good looks, and the gap would’ve been a lot closer if a couple more shots went their way, but they just turned the ball over too many times.

With the offseason upon them, the girls will look towards summer practices and a few team tournaments and team camps, in addition to the speed and strength training they do, before they start their preseason fall league in Cottage Grove.

After losing so many seniors, Sticht says the team will look a lot different next year.

“We'll have some younger kids trying to fill those roles, so personnel will be different, but it will be the same system,” Sticht said. “Abigail Treichel at the end of the season filled some really good minutes for us playing around the basket. She’s a good, strong rebounder and a little bit of a presence on offense.”

The Wildcats will also return three of their four top scorers in Quinn (#1), Jalowitz (#3) and Addy Timm (#4). When combined with the addition of players like Treichel, the team looks to be very competitive next year, despite losing so much senior talent.

That said, Coach Sticht says this year’s team was amongst the best groups he’s ever coached.

“We all felt pretty good about the season. We had some bumps and some downs spots, but there were also a lot of really positive moments. We played some really good basketball for a couple stretches of time, and they felt like they practiced and competed really hard, and because of that, we got better in terms of the team dynamic,” Sticht said. “They've been great teammates to each other, and it was as enjoyable of a season as I've ever had in terms of coming to work with them. They're super coachable, they wanted to be there and they wanted to work hard. So, collectively, we felt like the four months actually went by really fast. I think that's kind of the hard part. We know it's over, but because we enjoyed it so much, it went by too fast.”

Dunn-St Croix: Spring Valley

The Spring Valley Cardinals lost to New Auburn by a score of 48-39 in round one of the regional playoffs in New Auburn.

At the end of a season of ups and downs, the Cardinals took a two-game win streak into round one of the Division 5 postseason, their first year in this bracket.

It’s an emotional time for many teams as they play their last games together after so many years as teammates. This year, the Cardinals will lose the veteran leadership of Maddie Shafer, Charli Vanasse and Spring Valley girls’ basketball’s all-time points leader Mara Ducklow.

As bittersweet as it is to go out there and play this last game together as a unit, the future of the program is actually bright as they retain the vast majority of the roster going into next year. Of course, it’s difficult to replace players as prolific as Ducklow, but the example and leadership players like her leave behind as a legacy has a way of raising the bar for those who played with them.

Head Coach Sean Hoolihan says he thinks his team played well despite the loss.

“We didn't play perfect, obviously, but we had some moments where I really thought our kids really performed well and did things they should do. Having Mara in foul trouble didn't help, but our kids really competed the whole night and made some shots that we needed to make,” Hoolihan said. “After halftime we got down, and battling back and battling back, we just couldn't get over the hump. I was really proud of them for the way that they competed and the way they played, though.”

Coach Hoolihan says the team will start up again over the summer when they will play in a league in Durand in June and July. The gym will also be open throughout the offseason for the athletes to train.

“Losing Maddie, Mara and Charli, those are big shoes to fill. They have a lot of games and experience under them, but we gained some experience this year. Riley playing Addison, a couple sophomores, and obviously, Audrey Matheson did a great job for us this year. Then some of our younger kids got some varsity time this year too,” Hoolihan said. “So, yeah, we're going to look a little different next year without those three seniors, especially with Mara being our go to scorer, but basketball is basketball. You’ve got to find different ways to get the ball to go through the hoop, and we'll be looking at that as coaches in the offseason and trying to figure out what we think is best for them.”

Dunn-St. Croix: EPC

The Elmwood-Plum City Wolves were defeated by Royall on Tuesday night in Royall by a score of 70-17.

The Wolves played an entire season chock full of trials, tribulations and morale challenges. They went 0-22 and never lost the courage to hold their heads up and keep trying. That shows a lot of maturity and courage, and moreover, it shows promise in the future of this program behind new Head Coach Paige Saniter.

“I am super thankful for the girls and their hard work. It is not easy to persevere through a season full of losses, but they did. They kept smiling and enjoying the game and each other,” Saniter said. “They have strong goals for the future. and I am so very proud of them and their tenacity.” 

Though the 2023-2024 season may be over, basketball training will begin again once school is out for the year. Coach Saniter says they will be implementing skill sessions for their youth throughout the summer, and they will most likely participate in a summer league. 

“We are just going to continue to work hard and keep learning the game and all of its parts,” Saniter said. 

girls' basketball, playoffs, Ellsworth Panthers, Prescott Cardinals, Middle Border, River Falls Wildcats, Big Rivers, Spring Valley Cardinals, EPC Wolves, Dunn-St. Croix