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Experienced Ethan team preparing for state

ETHAN--The Ethan girls basketball team has been there before. Coming off a perfect season and a state championship in the 2014-15 season, the Rustlers hope to walk away with the Class B state title for the second year in a row. "We have some big-...

Ethan's Janae Gustafson (24) drives up court past an Elkton-Lake Benton's defender during the Region 4B championship game March 3 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)
Ethan's Janae Gustafson (24) drives up court past an Elkton-Lake Benton's defender during the Region 4B championship game March 3 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

ETHAN-The Ethan girls basketball team has been there before.

Coming off a perfect season and a state championship in the 2014-15 season, the Rustlers hope to walk away with the Class B state title for the second year in a row.

"We have some big-game experience," Ethan head coach Tom Young said after defeating Elkton-Lake Benton 54-25 in the Region 4B championship last week. "We have it even though we are young, we don't have a senior on our roster. I think the experience was a big factor (in our Region game). Even though we've been younger than other teams, I think we have more experience."

After securing a state berth by winning the Region 4B championship, the No. 2 seeded Rustlers will face No. 7 Irene-Wakonda at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Huron Arena in Huron. If victorious, Ethan would play the winner of the No. 3 Wall vs. Sanborn Central/Woonsocket contest on Friday.

But Young is cautious about relying on any momentum obtained from a dominating Region victory.

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"I don't know about that yet. Each game is just a different game at this point," Young said. "We've been trying to survive each game we've played in the playoffs and now we're just trying to get ready for the next one."

Young has said throughout the season the Rustlers will rely on their defense to win them games, calling it "his team's staple." His players seem to have bought into the same mindset.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," freshman forward Karly Gustafson said. "That's just what we do."

On the offensive side, a scoring balance has propelled the Rustlers. Gustafson leads the Ethan offense with 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while Kacey Bartscher and Ellie Hohn contribute 12 points per contest. Rachel Hawkins has chipped in with 8.5 points and 5.2 assists per game, while Janae Gustafson has recorded 5.1 points and three assists per contest.

Young said having that type of balance can benefit the Rustlers when the big moment of playing in a state tournament arises.

"We're really balanced," Young said. "Up and down our lineup, we have a lot of players that can go for double-figures each night. The great thing about these kids is they play really good defense, but they also play together as a team. They don't care about stats, they care about playing together as a team."

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