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Prep Focus: Rustlers go as Gustafson goes

ETHAN--Karly Gustafson is stepping up in her new role for the Ethan girls basketball team. The junior post has been a regular for the Rustlers since her eighth-grade season. She's a three-year starter and recently went over the 1,000 career-point...

Ethan's Karly Gustafson make a move around Bridgewater-Emery's Jada Wethor on Monday at the Corn Palace. (Eric Mayer / Republic)
Ethan's Karly Gustafson make a move around Bridgewater-Emery's Jada Wethor on Monday at the Corn Palace. (Eric Mayer / Republic)

ETHAN-Karly Gustafson is stepping up in her new role for the Ethan girls basketball team.

The junior post has been a regular for the Rustlers since her eighth-grade season. She's a three-year starter and recently went over the 1,000 career-point mark.

She's played with all-staters like her sister Darbi Gustafson, Rachel Hawkins and Kacey Bartscher.

But that trio is gone, and Gustafson is now the focal point of opposing defenses this season, facing double and triple teams.

"It was definitely an adjustment at first, just because I wasn't used to that," Gustafson said. "Last year, they had to focus on everyone. But now this year, I definitely have to share the ball even more and just really have a lot more communication out there with all the teammates."

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So far this season, Gustafson has thrived in her new role. She's coming off an 18-point performance in a win over Bridgewater-Emery, while scoring 32 points in a win against Philip earlier this season.

"We have got to play through Karly," Ethan coach Tom Young said. "We have some other girls that can shoot it and score, but Karly has to be night in, night out, the one that brings it every night."

Young said it's been an adjustment for Gustafson, due to her unselfish nature. But Gustafson said that's not only her nature, but also the Rustler style of play.

"Not one person scores all the points," Gustafson said. "It is a team effort, especially with us. We just love to share the ball."

The Rustlers have made their name playing defense. The suffocating defense has spurred three straight trips to the state tournament, including a state championship in 2015.

"Night in and night out, that's what we focus on is our defense," Gustafson said. "Points might not come, but the defense is the funnest part about basketball and this program. We always want to play hard and that's the best kind of basketball for me."

Defensively, Young utilizes the 6-foot Gustafson in a variety of ways.

"Anytime we play our zone, we try to put her in a position where it makes it tough for other teams to reverse the ball," Young said. "She's improved defensively. She's a way better defender this year than she was last year. When I first started coaching her, she was a post only, down on the block and now she's become much more of an open-floor, open-court player and has worked hard to become that."

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Just like she's worked hard in her new role.

"Karly has done an awesome job," Young said. "Obviously, this year is her first year in her leadership role and she's developing into that and becoming a really good leader. She's just been awesome to coach and I have had a blast watching every one of her 1,000 points."

As for that milestone, Gustafson, fittingly, passed off the praise to former and current teammates.

"I definitely credit them with that," she said. "It was an accomplishment as a team, too. It shows how much we share the ball and work as a team."

The Rustlers (7-2) play Madison (3-5) at noon Saturday in the Hanson Classic at the Corn Palace.

Related Topics: ETHANGIRLS BASKETBALL
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