The Ell-Saline Cardinals and Ness City Eagles entered action Friday afternoon at the Hilltop Hoops Classic in Great Bend a combined 1-24 on the season. Something had to give.
Early on, things weren’t looking good for Ell-Saline as the Eagles soared to an early 10-2 lead midway through the first quarter of the 7th Place game. Cardinal head coach Jeff Vogt had seen enough, calling timeout to refocus his squad. To say it worked would be a massive understatement.
Following the timeout, it was the Cardinals who took flight, outscoring Ness City 12-0 to close out the quarter with a 14-10 lead. Ell-Saline continued to pour it on in the second quarter, extending their run to 18 points before a pair of free throws by Ness City freshman Cynthia Guzman momentarily slowed the onslaught. By the end of the first half, Ell-Saline had outscored the Eagles 25-3 since Coach Vogt’s timeout, taking a commanding 27-13 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Cardinals were able to keep Ness City at arm’s length, outscoring the Eagles 14-12 in the third quarter and 12-11 in the fourth to claim a 53-36 victory in the tournament’s 7th Place Game.
While it wasn’t pretty (the Cardinals shot just 25% from the field and turned it over 27 times,) Ell-Saline (2-12) did enough to snap an eight-game losing streak. In the loss, Ness City (0-13) had 36 turnovers and shot just 29% from the field.
The game was won for Ell-Saline on the glass, as the Cardinals out-rebounded Ness City 56-38, including a dominating 31-7 advantage on the offensive glass, which led to the true difference maker on the night: the total amount of field goals attempted. Ell-Saline attempted 33 more shots from the field, going 18-71, while limiting Ness City to 11 makes on 38 attempts.
The Cardinals received a phenomenal individual effort from Ell-Saline’s lone senior, Lexi Kochanowski. The Salina Ortho Player of the Game, Kochanowski tallied career highs in three categories, finishing with 22 points, 17 rebounds and seven steals. Freshman Reece Ditto added nine points, while junior Rylee Shrock had six.
Ness City was paced by nine points from junior post Tiana Epperson while Guzman scored seven. A quartet of Eagles each added four points a piece.
Ell-Saline returns to Heart of America League play on Tuesday, January 30th, hosting rival Bennington in Brookville with the girls’ tip slated for 6:00pm, while the boys’ will battle it out in the nightcap at 7:30.