The Ell-Saline Cardinals tipped off the 2017-2018 high school basketball season Friday night in Brookville, taking on the Little River Redskins. While the season opened with high hopes for a Cardinal boys squad featuring ten seniors on the roster, a pair of Garrisons spoiled the party for the home faithful, leading Little River to a 52-38 victory.
It was a sluggish start for the Ell-Saline (0-1) offense as the Cards tallied just 13 points in the first half, falling behind at the break 32-13. The Cardinals began to find their rhythm in the second half, as the senior duo of forward Mason Farrell and guard Hunter Kindlesparger combined for 15 of Ell-Saline’s 25 second-half points, but Little River senior Jace Garrison and freshman Jayden Garrison scored 14 of Little River’s 20 points after intermission to keep the Cardinal comeback at bay.
In the girls matchup, the Cards began the tall task of replacing three seniors lost to graduation who combined for more than three quarters of Ell-Saline’s scoring and rebounding last season. Featuring just one senior and a host of untested underclassmen, the Cardinals fell in defeat to a more experienced Little River squad 49-25.
Returning lettermen Emma McBride and Melanie Renkin poured in 16 and 13 points respectively, with each putting up six in throughout the first quarter. Combined with the inexperience of the young Ell-Saline squad, which turned it over nine times in the first eight minutes, Little River built an early 21-9 lead after one.
Ell-Saline was kept in the hunt early by the efforts of sophomore Ashton Travis, who connected on three three-point baskets in the first quarter, accounting for all of the early Cardinal scoring.
While the Cards kept things much more competitive throughout the remainder of the game, Little River was still able to outscore Ell-Saline 9-7, 12-5 and 7-4 in the second, third and fourth quarters respectively.
Travis led all Cardinal scorers on the night with 14 points, while lone senior Lexi Kochanowski was next up, ending the game with four points.
Both Ell-Saline teams will face a major step up in competition on Tuesday evening at the Amos Morris / George Stephens Classic in Lincoln, as both squads are pitted against the Central Plains Oilers in the opening round. The Central Plains ladies will provide an extremely tall mountain for the Cards to climb, as the Lady Oilers opened the season on Friday with an 88-23 victory over Hoisington. The four-time defending 2A state champions have compiled a 103-1 record over the past four seasons.
Tuesday’s boys’ matchup is slated for 5:45pm, with the girls’ game to follow at 7:15pm.
By Morgan Lillich