HURON-It's like clockwork for the Ethan Rustlers.
It opened a big first-half lead on Thursday at the Huron Arena, and once again never let up. By the end of the Class B SoDak 16 game, the top-seeded Rustlers stood victorious over No. 16 seed Dupree, 70-38, extending their state tournament streak to five years.
"I know how hard it is to (make the state tournament), so to get there five times in a row is unbelievable," Ethan coach Tom Young said, of the 22-0 Rustlers. "I'm happy for them, for the community and happy for the school."
Ethan's 40-16 halftime lead only grew in the second half, but that didn't ruin any of the thrill of making another state tournament, which starts on March 7 in Huron. The Rustlers will play Waverly-South Shore in the opening game at noon on March 7.
"We worked really hard to get this (and) we're excited for the state tournament," Ethan junior Jessica Bartscher said. "... It's kind of hard to get (to state), so we're really excited again."
Bartscher wanted to come out aggressive, leading to her scoring all 14 of her points in the first half. However, she was part of a team-effort win which highlighted the depth Young has tried to build this year.
The Rustlers worked in unison in their zone defense to deflect and intercept poor passes, turning them into 22 takeaways. Maddie Miiller recorded a team-high four steals, while Bartscher, Cameryn Logan and Hannah Bartscher all recorded three.
"We take a lot of pride (on defense)," Jessica Bartscher said. "We work really hard in practice. If our offense isn't there, we always know our defense is."
The offense was there, though. The plethora of turnovers led to fastbreak layups, making Ethan's basket resemble a pregame layup line for most of the first half.
The layups continued when Ethan slowed down, too. It out-muscled the Tigers (11-10) in the paint or easily blew by defenders. The Rustlers also made 4 of 9 3-pointers in the first half, making them nearly unstoppable as it built a 40-16 halftime lead, thanks to scoring the first 12 points of the second quarter.
"(We) took care of the ball, played with poise and just had fun," Jessica Bartscher said.
By the fourth quarter, Ethan owned a 60-24 lead. Young pulled his starters and inserted an all-bench lineup, who he called, "the heart and soul of the team."
The defensive pressure didn't let up, while a few more Rustlers cracked the scoring column. Karly Gustafson's 22 points and eight rebounds paced Ethan, which had nine players score. Logan and Miiller finished with 10 and nine, respectively.
"I think (depth) is where we've improved," Young said. "We've become a lot more balanced. We can get scoring from several different positions and it makes us a tougher to beat."
Sidni Ferguson scored a team-high 16 points for the Tigers as she made four 3s.
Ethan has now outscored its postseason opponents 193-67, so what does it need to work on heading into the state tournament? A lot, according to Young.
"We have a lot of flaws. One of them is free throw shooting," Young said after Ethan went 15-for-26 from the line. "We need to shoot better free throws. All year long we want to get better (on both ends)."
Ethan 70, Dupree 38
Ethan (22-0): Karly Gustafson 7-16 6-8 22, Jessica Bartscher 5-8 1-2 14, Cameryn Logan 5-8 0-2 10, Maddie Miiller 4-8 1-3 9, Ava Lingemann 1-2 2-2 4, Callie Hohn 2-2 0-0 4, Hannah Bartscher 1-2 1-2 3, Lexi Lingemann 0-0 2-4 2, Erica Storm 0-2 2-2 2, Mollie Miiller 0-0 0-0 0, Regan Gerlach 0-0 0-0 0, Shawntel Hohn 0-0 0-0 0, Maddie Bartscher 0-1 0-1 0. Team totals: 25-49 15-26 70.
Dupree (11-10): Sidni Ferguson 6-11 0-0 16, Marlene Woodward 2-4 3-3 7, Natalie Veit 2-6 0-0 5, McKenna Dupris 1-3 2-2 5, Shantell Brewer 1-5 1-2 3, Kadynse Buffalo 1-3 0-0 2, Kelci Bends 0-3 0-0 0. Team totals: 13-35 6-7 38.
E 18 40 60 70
D 10 16 24 38
3-pointers: E 5-14 J. (Bartscher 3-5, Gustafson 2-6); D 6-20 (Ferguson 4-8, Veit 1-5, Dupris 1-2). Rebounds: E 34 (Gustafson 8, Logan 5); D 19 (Ferguson 3). Steals: E 19 (Ma. Miiller 4, J. Bartscher 3, Logan 3, H. Bartscher 3); D 5 (Ferguson 2, Brewer 2). Turnovers: E 14; D 22. Total fouls: E 9; D 16.