Ell-Saline’s boys’ basketball squad gave fans a taste of what the Cardinals are capable of Friday night at the Amos Morris / George Stephens Classic in Lincoln against the Ellsworth Bearcats, using a furious third quarter rally to turn a 14-point halftime deficit into a tie ballgame at the end of the third quarter. Unfortunately for Cardinal backers in attendance, Ellsworth’s dynamic senior duo of Jordan Base and Remington Cravens proved too much to overcome, leading the Bearcats to a 61-53 victory.
Early on, it appeared Ellsworth (2-1) would coast to a comfortable victory. Cravens hit a quick two to begin the ballgame, then followed up a three-point bucket from Ell-Saline (0-3) senior Tel Phelps with eight consecutive points. Less than halfway through the first quarter, it was Cravens 10, Ell-Saline 3. By the end of the first, the Bearcats held a 19-11 advantage. Ellsworth extended their lead to 34-20 at the break, outscoring Ell-Saline 15-9 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Ell-Saline offense found its rhythm for the first time throughout the early-season action. While he didn’t add a single point into the scoring column throughout the period, sophomore Sawyer Kramer was the driving mechanism behind Ell-Saline’s offensive onslaught.
Kramer took over at point throughout the third, dissecting the Ellsworth full court D, drawing numerous help-side defenders through dribble penetration, then distributing the rock to a covey of open Cardinals throughout the period, helping Ell-Saline to 26 third-quarter points, easily surpassing the entirety of the Cardinals’ offensive output throughout the first half.
Entering the fourth quarter tied 46-46, both teams slugged it out defensively throughout the fourth, with Ell-Saline taking a 50-48 lead early on in the quarter on a bucket inside from sophomore Kaden Griffin. It was Ell-Saline’s first lead since going up 3-2 in the game’s first minute. It would also be there last.
On the other end, Ellsworth got an unexpected answer as senior Chris Fitzgerald connected from long range to put the Bearcats back in front 51-50. With 2:23 remaining, Ellsworth led it 54-53. As time continued to wind down, Ell=Saline was forced to foul to stop the clock and Base was equal to the task at the charity stripe, going 3-for-4 over the last two minutes of play to help salt away the Bearcat victory.
Base finished the night 8-for-9 from the line while collecting game-high scoring honors with 22 points. Cravens finished with 18 for Ellsworth, while junior Grant Gwinner added 12 off the Bearcat bench.
For Ell-Saline, the senior forward / guard duo of Mason Farrell and Hunter Kindlesparger combined for 60 percent of the Cardinal output Friday night, going for 19 and 13 points, respectively. Griffin added 9 for the Cards off the bench.
Ell-Saline will play in the 7th place game Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm.
Turnovers Tell the Tale in Loss for Ell-Saline Ladies
In Friday afternoon action in the girls’ consolation semifinal round Ell-Saline committed 38 turnovers, 25 in the first half as Ellsworth coasted to a 53-23 victory to send the Cardinal girls into the 7th place game at the Amos Morris / George Stephens Classic in Lincoln on Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm.
Ell-Saline (0-3) kept it close early, trailing 11-8 after the first quarter, but were outscored 35-9 over the next two periods to find themselves down 46-17 heading to the fourth.
Two Talbotts told the tale of the Ellsworth (2-1) O, with senior Paige Talbott leading all scorers with 16 points, while sophomore Jaide Talbott poured in 14 for the Bearcats. Sophomore post Lakyn Tenbrink added 11 points.
Ell-Saline was led for the third time in as many games by sophomore guard Ashton Travis. Travis scored 14 of Ell-Saline’s 23 points in the contest, while fellow sophomore Bria Byerley and junior Rylee Schrock added four points apiece.
Taking care of the basketball continues to be the single most difficult issue facing the underclassmen-laden Cardinal squad. Through the first two games of the tournament, Ell-Saline has turned it over 79 times, unofficially.
By Morgan Lillich