Complete effort carries Somerset boys basketball team past Ellsworth
Every contribution was needed by the Somerset boys basketball team to get a win over Ellsworth last Thursday.
Ellsworth is one of the most improved teams in the conference and the Panthers came into last Thursday’s game with a 4-0 record in the Middle Border Conference. Somerset put the first L in the loss column for Ellsworth, beating the Panthers 70-67. This left both teams tied for second place in the MBC with 4-1 records.
Ellsworth unveiled a new offensive threat in this game in 6-6 senior center Will Huppert. Huppert was unstoppable in the low post, scoring 16 of Ellsworth’s 27 points in the first half and getting Somerset center Gaelin Elmore into early foul trouble.
With Elmore on the bench for much of the first half, the Spartans teetered on the edge of major trouble. They fell behind as far as eight points in the second quarter. Then the Spartan defense stepped up, and the game rapidly turned in Somerset’s favor.
The Spartans scored the final eight points of the second quarter to take a 28-27 lead into halftime. Spartan coach Brent Larson gambled and put Elmore back into the game for a two-minute stretch late in the half. Elmore was able to score on two powerful drives to the basket. Larson then got Elmore out of the game so he didn’t draw a third foul.
Zac Bahr came off the bench to hit two big shots, including a three-pointer, to steady the Spartans in the second quarter. The Spartans leaned heavily on their depth and it produced results. The Spartan press forced Ellsworth into numerous turnovers, starting with the turnaround late in the second quarter. Somerset coach Brent Larson said the steals and easy hoops the Spartans got off the press helped to shake Ellsworth’s confidence.
Somerset’s defense continued to assert itself in the third quarter. The Spartans outscored Ellsworth 31-11 from late in the second quarter to the final minute of the third quarter.
The Spartans’ lead grew as large as 13 points, but Ellsworth’s fleet of outside shooters combined with Huppert to make an impressive fourth quarter comeback. Ellsworth got as close as three points, but the Spartans’ free throw shooting held them off. Somerset made 16-19 free throws, including 10-11 by Jack Emmert.
In a game where 137 points was scored, you might think defense wasn’t a factor. That wasn’t the case. The Spartans were able to force Ellsworth into 18 turnovers, while the Spartans committed just six turnovers.
The defense of Spartan junior Heaven Hunt was one of the key elements of the win. Hunt was assigned to Ellsworth’s Chrystian Kulow, one of the leading scorers in the conference the past two seasons. Hunt hounded Kulow, limiting him to 11 points. Hunt finished the game with six steals.
“He’s got a hard-nosed mentality,” Larson said about Hunt. “He’s got the makeup to be a good defender.”
Hunt was part of the Spartans’ triple-threat offense in this game. Elmore led the Spartans with 18 points, most off slashing drives to the basket. Hunt and Emmert each scored 16 points. Emmert led the team with five assists.
Larson said the biggest drawback to the game was the Spartans’ rebounding effort. Ellsworth was able to haul in 18 offensive rebounds, many of which Huppert and Kyle Murphy turned into points. Larson said it was counterproductive to work so hard on defense and force a low-percentage shot, only to give up easy points because the team hadn’t boxed out well.
Elmore and guard Zac Waalen led the Spartans with six rebounds each.
The Spartans are now into a schedule rotation where they play twice weekly for the rest of the season. They will play at home in their next two outings. Durand will be the opponent this Friday, with Totino-Grace the challenger next Tuesday.