Ell-Saline High School’s winter homecoming, affectionately dubbed Sweetheart Night, was a Friday night to remember in Brookville. In addition to the crowning of the king and queen, the school welcomed back members of the 1980 boys’ basketball squad to honor the 40th anniversary of Ell-Saline’s Class 1A State Championship.
Cardinal supporters who packed the house for the ceremonies were treated to two thrilling battles on the hardwood as the varsity games between the Cardinals and their fellow Heart of America League foe, the Marion Warriors, did not disappoint.
GIRLS: Ell-Saline 53, Marion 48
The varsity opener got off to a sloppy start as the two teams combined for more turnovers than points in the first quarter. Marion (3-14, 1-5 HOA) turned it over nine times over the first eight minutes, while Ell-Saline (2-16, 1-6 HOA) finished the period with six turnovers. After the quarter, the teams were deadlocked at 6-6.
Both teams began to find their rhythm offensively in the second quarter, with the Warriors outscoring the Cardinals 14-13 to take a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Early in the second half, it appeared Marion would pull away. The Warriors scored the first ten points of the third quarter to take a 30-19 lead, their largest of the game. The Cardinals refused to die, using a suffocating full-court press to spur a 14-1 run to regain the lead. By the end of the quarter, the Cardinals held a one-point advantage.
The fourth quarter was nip and tuck throughout, with neither team gaining more than a four-point lead over the final eight minutes of regulation. Marion had every opportunity to seal the win at the free throw line, getting to the charity stripe 17 times in the fourth quarter. However, the Warriors hit just five of those attempts, leaving the door open for Ell-Saline.
Following a missed shot on the Cardinals’ end, Marion got the basketball back late, leading by two. With just seven seconds remaining, Ell-Saline junior guard Reece Ditto stole away a pass in the Warrior frontcourt, then drove coast-to-coast as the final seconds ticked away. Ditto missed the lay in at the rim but was fouled on the shot with 1.7 seconds left to play. Ditto calmly drained both free throws to force overtime.
In the extra session, both teams were viably gassed. Due to an overabundance of foul calls, each team had three players foul out before the game reached overtime, leaving both benches short. The Cardinals had just enough left in the tank to outscore Marion 9-4 in overtime to prevail.
The teams combined to take 82 free throw attempts in the game. Ell-Saline finished 20-for-36 at the line, while Marion went just 16-for-46.
The Cardinal victory snapped three painfully-long losing streaks, one of which dated back to the 2015-2016 season, while the other two dated back to the 2016-2017 season. The win in Heart of America League play was Ell-Saline’s first since a 38-36 win at Inman on January 3, 2017, while the home victory was the Cardinals’ first since a 50-33 win over Minneapolis on February 20, 2017.
The last time Ell-Saline defeated a Heart of America League foe in front of the home faithful in Brookville prior to Friday night occurred on February 19, 2016, a 47-36 victory over rival Sedgwick.
Ell-Saline was paced by a pair of sophomores in the victory as Raleigh Kramer and Sadie Bradley shared team-high honors with 13 points a piece.
Marion sophomore Jayden May led all scorers on the night, finishing with 16 points. Senior Chloe Burkholder added 13 points, while junior Megan Neufeld chipped in with 12 points in the loss.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Marion 6 14 14 10 4 – 48
Ell-Saline 6 13 16 9 9 – 53
BOYS: Marion 71, Ell-Saline 66
Following the tightly-contested matchup in the girls’ game, the boys’ nightcap kept fans on the edge of their seats as well. Early on, it certainly looked like that would not be the case.
Marion (2-15, 1-5 HOA) stormed out of the gates with 24 first-quarter points. Ell-Saline (0-18, 0-7 HOA) received a tremendous performance in the opening quarter from junior Trevor Peterson, who single-handedly kept the Cardinals in the game. By the end of the period, Peterson had already destroyed his previous career-high at the varsity level, scoring all 13 of Ell-Saline’s first-quarter points.
Feeding off of Peterson’s first-quarter effort, the Cardinals came to life in the second quarter, outscoring Marion 19-7 to take a one-point lead into the locker room – Ell-Saline’s first halftime lead of the season.
In the third quarter, Marion senior Jaxton Tracy and Ell-Saline sophomore Taegan Bradley put their respective teams on their backs. Tracy scored 13 of the Warriors’ 21 points in the quarter, while Bradley had 11 of the Cardinals’ 19 points in the third frame. As the game went to the fourth quarter, Marion held a one-point edge.
While the Marion girls lost the opportunity to seal a victory in the opener by failing to capitalize on 17 fourth-quarter free throw attempts, the opposite was true in the nightcap. The Marion boys also got the line 17 times in the fourth quarter, but managed to cash in on 13 of those tries, outscoring Ell-Saline by ten at the charity stripe in the final quarter to hang on for the five-point win.
The two teams combined to take 63 free throw attempts in the boys’ battle. Ell-Saline finished 17-for-33 at the line, while Marion ended up 18-for-30.
Tracy led the Warriors in the win with a team-high 20 points. Junior Braedon Mercer and senior Luke Dawson tallied 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Bradley ended up with a career-high 24 points in the contest to lead all scorers. Peterson finished with 16 points, while junior Rowan Loder notched a double-digit effort as well, ending the night with ten points in the Cardinal loss.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Marion 24 7 21 19 – 71
Ell-Saline 13 19 19 15 – 66