The Ell-Saline Cardinals laced ’em up for the final time for the 2017-2018 girls’ basketball season, falling on the road to Valley Heights Monday evening 67-43.
Coming in as the eighth-seeded squad in the eight-team Belleville 2A Sub-State field, Ell-Saline (2-19) faced a tall order in tangling with the top-seeded Mustangs.
Valley Heights (16-5) certainly had an axe to grind, with the Cardinals having ended the Mustangs’ state tournament dreams last season.
One year ago, Ell-Saline’s senior-laden 2016-2017 squad had entered Blue Rapids as the five seed, pulling the 54-47 upset win to end fourth-seeded Valley Heights’ season. Mustang guard Kayla Smith, who put up 25 points in the loss last season, made sure a second upset wasn’t in the cards.
The Valley Heights senior once again hung 25 points on Ell-Saline, earning Salina Ortho Player of the Game honors while leading all scorers on the night. Fellow senior Shea Manley knocked down five three-point buckets in the first half – four in the second quarter – to help the Mustangs out to a 35-17 halftime advantage.
While Manley was held scoreless in the second half, sophomore Samantha Vermetten picked up where Manley left off. After a scoreless first half, Vermetten poured in 15 points after intermission. Valley Heights Freshman Emma Toerber also reached double digits, finishing with ten points in the contest.
Ell-Saline was led by sophomore guard Ashton Travis’s nine points, while freshman guard Reece Ditto tallied seven points.
In her final game on the hardwood representing Ell-Saline, lone Cardinal senior Lexi Kochanowski finished the night with six points, as did sophomore Erin Lange and freshman Lakyn Short.