STICKNEY-Class B No. 4 Corsica-Stickney stuck around for a half on Monday, but in the end, it suffered the same fate as the previous 16 teams that tried to take down No. 1 Ethan.
The Rustlers improved to 17-0 with a 54-45 victory over Corsica-Stickney (17-2).
"It was great to get that win," Ethan coach Tom Young said. "We knew they weren't going to quit. They're too good to do that. We knew they were going to come on a run and we had enough to fight them off."
Ethan enjoyed a double-digit lead for much of the second half, though points were hard to come by early. The low-scoring affair didn't surprise Karly Gustafson, who scored 14 of her game-high 26 points before halftime. She helped the Rustlers hold leads of 9-8 and 21-17 after the first and second quarters, respectively.
"I think both teams play great defense, so I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game," Gustafson said.
However, Ethan's guards aggressively looking for open looks, while Corsica-Stickney struggled to close out on shooters, provided the knockout punch early in the second half.
The Rustlers, who ended the first on a 6-1 run, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the third quarter. Jessica Bartscher, who Young said has been shooting well in practice, finished with three triples in the quarter. Ethan hit four as a team in the third as it owned a 21-6 advantage to take a 43-23 lead heading into the fourth.
"I think it's always big starting out the third quarter (on a run)," Young said. "You can either start out well or take a dive. Luckily we started out well and stretched our lead because we needed every point."
It wasn't like that in the first half, though. Open perimeter looks were hard to come by and every layup attempt was met with raised arms at the basket. Ethan's zone also forced Corsica-Stickney to whip passes around the perimeter in hopes of finding an opening or clear 3-point look.
"They have a very good defense," Corsica-Stickney coach Lorisa Broughton said. "They're big, they're athletic and they move all the time."
The Rustlers managed to hold Avery Broughton to four first-half points, while most of its scoring came from a trio of 3s which Rachel Gerlach hit. Gerlach finished with 12 points.
The Jaguars' struggles to find offensive momentum continued through the first three quarters. As their 3-pointers grazed the rim or missed completely, the Rustlers caught fire from beyond the arc and went to the free-throw line often thanks to getting fouled on fastbreak layups.
That changed in the fourth quarter, though.
The Jaguars started hitting outside shots and their press forced turnovers for extra chances, leading to them scoring 24 fourth-quarter points.
"We're a little young and sometimes they're like, 'Oh yeah, we're behind, we need to start shooting,' " coach Broughton said. "It was a moment where they had nothing to lose, so I think they maybe relaxed a little bit and shot the ball better."
Avery Broughton also found her shot, making a pair of triples en route to a 10-point quarter. She finished with a team-high 14 points.
"(Broughton) is an amazing eighth-grader," Gustafson said. "She will definitely go far. As an eighth grader, she's doing really well."
Corsica-Stickney cut the deficit to 50-40 with 1:17 to play, but could never fully break through. Ethan made its free throws to keep a distance, going 7-for-12 from the line in the final quarter.
"I thought we showed a lot of heart finishing strong (Monday)," coach Broughton said. "Third quarter was a bad shooting quarter and bad defensively, so to keep our heads to the grindstone was a positive."
Corsica-Stickney plays Tripp-Delmont/Armour today in Corsica. Ethan hosts Freeman today.
E 9 22 43 54
CS 8 17 23 45
Ethan (17-0): Karly Gustafson 26, Jessica Bartscher 13, Cameryn Logan 8, Maddie Miiller 7.
Corsica-Stickney (17-2): Avery Broughton 14, Rachel Gerlach 12, Courtney Menning 8, Raven Barse 6, Payton DeLange 2, Morga Clites 2, Jenna Bamberg 1.