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Area powers close winning chapter in girls hoops

HURON -- Saturday's final session of games at the Class B state girls basketball tournament in Huron marked the end of a winning chapter for two area basketball powers.

Ethan Head Coach Tom Young and the Rustlers bench celebrate a basket during the Class B third-place game against Warner on Saturday night at the Huron Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Ethan Head Coach Tom Young and the Rustlers bench celebrate a basket during the Class B third-place game against Warner on Saturday night at the Huron Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)

HURON - Saturday's final session of games at the Class B state girls basketball tournament in Huron marked the end of a winning chapter for two area basketball powers.

While neither Ethan or Sanborn Central/Woonsocket brought home the championship - those honors went to Sully Buttes for a second straight season - the second-place Blackhawks and third-place Rustlers both have made state tournament appearances and top finishes a regular part of March for their communities.

For the Blackhawks, the 2016-17 season was the sixth in which Sanborn Central and Woonsocket had a sports cooperative, including for girls basketball. In five of those six seasons, SCW has made the state girls basketball tournament. After Saturday's game, the Blackhawks have had 131 wins and 22 losses in the last six seasons, winning nearly 86 percent of their games. That includes a pair of second-place finishes (2014 and 2017), third place (2016), fourth place (2012) and fifth place (2013).

"It's been incredible to be a part of it," SCW co-head coach Tim McCain said. "We've had a lot wins in that timeframe. We've had a phenomenal group of kids to work with, they work hard and they don't quit."

Senior Myah Selland, the all-around talent for the Blackhawks, has been a member of all five state tournament teams for SCW. After more than 2,000-plus points, Selland said her time as a Blackhawk was special.

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"I'm just so proud of the girls I play with," she said, between hugs with SCW fans young and old. "It's a special community and a special team and I'm going to miss being a part of it."

McCain said the Blackhawks' success has helped the communities of Artesian, Letcher, Forestburg and Woonsocket come together as one.

"We've been in the state tournament five times now and this has been a phenomenal experience," he said. "The communities have bonded together and we've got great pride in being a Blackhawk."

Ethan also saw a special season end Saturday with a third-place win over Warner. The Rustlers finished the season at 24-2, capping three consecutive years of state tournament appearances and a 71-7 record in that span. Ethan coach Tom Young complimented the team's youth coaches for setting them up for success when the players were young.

"They've accomplished something that no other Ethan basketball team, boys or girls, has been able to do," he said. "And it's going to be a while before any other team matches that."

The three-year run includes a Class B state championship in 2015, a runner-up finish in 2016 and third place in 2017. Ethan made the state boys basketball tournament five times, including a runner-up crown in 2001. But the last three years from the Rustler girls are undoubtedly the best in school history.

"We had a chance for three state titles," Young said. "We only got one of them but we were right there for three of them."

Ethan graduates six seniors, including Kacey Bartscher, who said the ending was awesome for a team that has played together since the second grade.

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"We know that the community is really proud of us and we want to thank them," she said. "We put in a lot of hard work over the years and it's great to see that pay off."

Neither team is likely to go away easily next season, as both Ethan and SCW bring back key pieces. Another interesting twist will be a part of both teams' future, as the current plans for district and region assignments in girls basketball would not only put SCW and Ethan in the same region but in the same District 8B. Under the current format, only one of those schools could advance to the state tournament.

SCW co-head coach Rob Baruth said the continued efforts of younger players will decide future success.

"We have a lot of little boys and little girls that are seeing this and they want to experience a state tournament," he said. "They know you have to earn it but that's what these kids in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades are picking up. They know they want to be a part of this."

Sanborn Central/Woonsocket's Myah Selland (44) is introduced to prior to the start of the Class B state championship game against Sully Buttes on Saturday night at the Huron Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Sanborn Central/Woonsocket's Myah Selland (44) is introduced to prior to the start of the Class B state championship game against Sully Buttes on Saturday night at the Huron Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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