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Ethan falls to Potter County 65-54 in third-place game

Ethan's Blake Bratscher (10) goes up for a shot against Potter County's Chayce Hall (52) in the second quarter of the third-place game at the Class B state tournament Saturday at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

ABERDEEN - Strong outside shooting from Potter County and a season high in turnovers ended the Ethan boys’ basketball team’s season with a loss.

The No. 5 Battlers pulled away late to top the No. 6 Rustlers 65-54 in the third-place game of the Class B state tournament Saturday at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen.

When asked about how Potter County was able to pull ahead, Ethan coach Bryce Roth laughed and asked “Did you see their three-point percentage?”

The Battlers shot 9-of-14 from beyond the arc, with four players hitting at least one shot from deep.

The Rustlers started the game strong, with senior point guard Blake Bartscher hitting a layup for Ethan as time expired in the first quarter to give his team a 16-12 lead. Bartscher, who won the Spirit of Su award during a halftime presentation of the championship game Saturday, hit a 3-pointer to push the Rustler lead to eight with three minutes left in the first half.

Potter County closed the opening half with a surge, as Tanner Storer hit a shot from behind the three-point line with time running out to bring the Battlers within four points heading into the break.

With the Rustlers up a point early in the fourth quarter, Ethan went cold from the field and missed several free throws. Chayce Hall made one of his three 3-pointers to push Potter County ahead 55-50.

In need of a late comeback, Ethan struggled to hang on to the ball, turning it over on four straight possessions. The Battlers outscored the Rustlers 16-6 in the fourth to secure the win.

“They didn’t miss and when they did, we gave them too many second-chance opportunities,” Roth said. “We tried to force it a little too much in the fourth quarter and it showed.”

Ethan was led by Bartscher with a game-high 19 points and six rebounds, while senior Jace Connor added 12 points and seven rebounds. Hanner Tilberg scored eight points for Ethan and Camden Myers, who averaged more than 18 points per game in the regular season, was limited by foul trouble and finished with four points in 22 minutes.

“Camden is a big factor and gives us another option down low,” Bartscher said. “Teams will either key on me or him most of the time.”

The Rustlers, who made their first appearance in the state tournament in 13 years, shot 21-of-43 from the field and 10-of-20 from the free-throw line, while outrebounding the Battlers 30-29 . Ethan turned the ball over 15 times, which Roth said was a season high for his team.

The offense was balanced for Potter County with five players scoring in double figures led by Caleb Meinke with 12 points. Tanner Heuer, Kole Hawkinson, Hall and Storer each scored 11 points in the win. The Battlers shot 21-of-46 from the field and 14-of-23 from the free-throw line, while turning the ball over 10 times.

“Balance is how it has been for us all year long,” Potter County coach Bryce Hall said. “Our players are very unselfish, and they understand who has the hot hand at times.”

NOTES: Ethan’s Blake Bartscher was the lone Rustler named to the all-tournament team.