The Ell-Saline girls’ basketball squad began pool play Monday evening at the Hilltop Hoops Classic at Barton Community College in Great Bend, squaring off with the Ness City Eagles. The Cardinals entered the tournament looking to snap a 37-game losing streak by defeating the last team it had beaten. The Cardinals’ previous win occurred at the Hilltop Hoops Classic against Ness City during the 2017-2018 season.
Early on, however, it looked as if the Eagles would soar to victory, racing out to an 11-1 advantage. The Cardinals bounced back late in the first quarter, getting back-to-back buckets from sophomore Lacie Kohman and junior Hannah Backhus over the quarter’s final 43 seconds to cut the deficit to six by the end of the period.
By the midway point in the second quarter, Ell-Saline had fought back within three at 13-10, but the Eagles would get a free throw from sophomore Zoe Seib and a three-point play from sophomore Alexa Reinhardt to push the lead back to seven.
On Ell-Saline’s final position of the first half, the Cardinals broke Ness City’s full court press, getting a lay up from sophomore Raleigh Kramer just before the halftime buzzer to pull within five at the break.
Ness City came out of the locker room with a flourish, pushing the advantage to 12 points – the largest Eagle lead of the night. The Cardinals would fight back as junior Brynna Rowley drained a three-pointer, then knocked down a two-point basket on Ell-Saline’s next possession to cut the Ness City lead down to seven.
By the end of the third quarter, the Cardinals found themselves down 29-20. Once again, Ell-Saline refused to go away, slowly but surely trimming the deficit throughout the game’s final eight minutes.
With six seconds remaining, Ell-Saline senior Erin Lange hit a pair of three throws to pull Ell-Saline within two. Following a quick Cardinal foul, Reinhardt stepped to the line with three seconds to play with a chance to seal the Eagle victory. After hitting the first charity shot, Reinhardt missed the second, but an offensive rebound from sophomore Taylor Starr thwarted the Cardinals’ comeback hopes, giving Ness City a hard-fought 34-31 victory.
Turnovers played a critical role in the Ell-Saline loss, regularly halting the Cardinals’ momentum throughout the game. By the time the final horn sounded, Ell-Saline had committed 31 turnovers on the night.
Ness City (3-8) was led by 12 points from Reinhardt, while Seib added nine points in the victory.
Ell-Saline (0-11) received seven points from Rowley, good for team-high honors in the Cardinal defeat.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Ell-Saline 5 7 8 11 – 31
Ness City 11 6 12 5 – 34