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Ethan pulls away late, tops Mitchell Christian girls in District 8B semis

Ethan’s Rachel Hawkins drives to the basket against Mitchell Christian’s Cassidy Graham in the semifinals of the District 8B tournament Thursday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

The No. 2 seed Ethan Rustlers pulled away from No. 3 Mitchell Christian late in the fourth quarter to secure a spot in the District 8B finals.

The Rustlers (17-4) ended the Golden Eagles’ (17-5) season in the semifinal game with a 52-42 win Thursday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

“We weren’t real aggressive early, and they were good defensively tonight,” Ethan coach Scott Giblin said. “I thought in the second half, we really started attacking more and got the ball inside.”

With MCS holding a 14-7 lead after one quarter, Ethan freshman Ellie Hohn scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the first half to bring her team back and give the Rustlers a two-point lead at halftime. The teams continued to trade baskets into the fourth quarter, with the Rustlers holding a 45-42 lead midway through the final stanza.

Strong team defense and clutch shots allowed the Rustlers to pull away with seven straight points down the stretch to secure a spot in the finals. Ethan will play No. 1 seed Hanson at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, as the Beavers topped Bridgewater-Emery in the opening game at the Corn Palace Thursday.

“We are going to have to find a way to slow them down defensively,” Giblin said about the finals matchup with Hanson. “Tonight we got off to a slow start and if we do that on Saturday we might be in trouble because they’ve got some kids that can really score.”

Junior Darbi Gustafson scored 16 points for the Rustlers, while grabbing 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Bailey Grenoble added seven points and two steals, while Rachel Hawkins chipped in with six points and four assists. Ethan shot 17-of-39 from the field and 16-of-19 from the free-throw line.

“The Corn Palace is a special place to play and has a great atmosphere,” Gustafson said. “It’s a lot different than what we are used to, but it’s a lot of fun to play here and we are going to have to play our best game to come away with a win against Hanson.”

MCS was led by Ashley Schmit with 11 points, while Abbie Reynen added 10 points and Cassidy Graham finished with nine. Alexa Van Laecken, daughter of Golden Eagle coach Jackie Van Laecken, was held to just two points on two made free-throws. The senior did add five rebounds, nine assists and five steals. MCS finished 7-of-9 from the free-throw line and grabbed 17 total rebounds.

“I could not have asked for anything more than what these girls gave this season,” MCS coach Jackie Van Laecken said.

MCS 14 22 34 42

E 7 24 37 52

Ethan (17-4)

Bailey Grenoble 2-7 2-2 7; Rachel Hawkins 1-4 4-46; Janae Gustafson 0-3 0-0 0; Morgan Tuttle 0-0 0-0 0; Darbi Gustafson 4-8 8-10 16; Ellie Hohn 8-11 2-3 18; Kacey Bartscher 2-6 0-0 5; Totals 17-39 16-19 52.

MCS (17-5)

Alexa Van Laecken 0 2-2 2; Abbie Reynen 5 0-0 10; Cassidy Graham 2 4-5 9; Ashley Schmit 5 1-3 11. Lindsey Thompson 1 0-0 2; Emily Reynen 4 0-0 8; Totals 16 7-10 42.