As one of Class B's surprise teams, Ethan girls continued their history of state tournament success
“It’s a testament to their hard work,” Ethan coach Tom Young said.
ETHAN — Look at how the Ethan girls basketball team performed this season compared to recent years and nothing is going to seem out of place.
For the eighth time in the last nine seasons, the Rustlers were in the Class B state tournament. For the seventh time in that span they finished in the top-four placings. The Rustler maroon and gold is never out of place at the girls state tournament these days.
But consider the youth of the Rustlers’ program — only two seniors on the roster and one senior in the starting lineup — and the fact that they weren’t expected to be among the state’s contenders, the 2023 season will be one remembered for how much Ethan ended up achieving with its fourth-place finish at the state tournament in Huron.
“It’s a testament to their hard work,” Ethan coach Tom Young said. “This group, they’re a really special team, one of my all-time favorites as a coach.”
The Rustlers finished 22-4, with the last two games coming in losses against eventual state champion Viborg-Hurley and the tournament’s No. 1 seed Wolsey-Wessington. Young spent an extended amount of time talking to his team in the locker room following the loss to Wolsey-Wessington to end the season, something that he said reflects the level of investment the players put toward the season.
“It’s great to see the fruits of that work,” Young said. “You don’t always see those fruits but it’s great. And when you have a loss like we had to end the season, it hurts. It’s directly related: how much you invest and how much it hurts at the end. And it’s OK to feel that.”
Ethan was not among the teams considered in the preseason South Dakota Prep Media basketball poll and it wasn’t invited to a number of the high-profile basketball classics during the season, either.
Those misses likely won’t be repeated in 2024, with Ethan bringing back its top-four scorers from the current season in juniors Ava Lingemann, Maddy Bartscher and Ella Pollreisz, along with freshman Marissa Storm.
Junior Leah Klock scored the game-winning basket in the Rustlers’ overtime quarterfinal win over Castlewood and Storm was among the most notable Rustlers to take a step forward in the state tournament, averaging 15 points per game and hitting 11 3-pointers over the three days of play.
“We have a nice group of young kids and all of this was a really good experience for them in the future,” Young said. “It was really the first time they’ve had a chance to play in these types of games. There were some nerves and some (scoring) droughts but I’m really happy with how the girls responded in the tournament. What an experience we had that most kids don’t get to have in their high school careers.”