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Ethan girls look to use one of Class B's top defenses for success in state tournament

“We’re going to have to do what we’ve done all year,” coach Tom Young said. “We’re going to have to play solid defense, take care of the basketball, not turn the ball over and hit some shots."

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Ethan's Madeline Bartscher dribbles the ball around a Corsica-Stickney defender during a Class B SoDak 16 girls state-qualifier game on Thursday, March 2, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

ETHAN, S.D. — They sit near the top of Class B in almost every category.

But where they truly shine is on the defensive side of the ball.

The Ethan girls basketball team has been a force on the defensive side of the ball all season, holding opponents to 34.7 points per game en route to a 20-2 record.

The Rustlers trail only Jones County, the No. 8 seed in the state tournament, in terms of points allowed per game among all 72 Class B teams, and they’ve kept opponents under 30 points 12 times and twice this season have limited a team to less than 20 points.

And while their defense has been prevalent all season, since the start of postseason play, Ethan has kicked it up a notch. During the Region 3B tournament, the Rustlers gave up a combined 33 points over two games and outscored their foes 116-33 over the span.

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And in the Class B SoDak 16 state qualifier, it was once again the defense that helped Ethan grab a win, limiting Corsica-Stickney to 31 points in a 34-31 win.

“If our offense doesn’t show up, our defense always will,” junior guard Ava Lingemann said after taking down Corsica-Stickney.

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Ethan's Ava Lingemann (14) looks to make a pass during a Class B SoDak 16 girls state qualifier game against Corsica-Stickney on Thursday, March 2, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Ethan is unbeaten against Class B this season, with its only two losses coming to Class A foes Hanson and Wagner early in the season, and since the loss to the Red Raiders, Ethan has compiled 15 wins in a row.

Though Lingemann averages a team-best 19 points per game, coach Tom Young said his squad doesn’t rely on one scorer to put up a ton of points, and he pointed to that as a positive. Outside of the junior, Marissa Storm averaged 12 points per game and Madeline Bartscher put up nine points a night while shooting 41% from 3-point range.

“We’re pretty well balanced,” Young said. “Everybody has a role and they play their roles. And that’s what makes us, I think, tougher … we play as a team and everybody’s content to play their role.”

When the Rustlers need a big basket, though, Lingemann is usually the one with the ball in her hands, just like she was in the waning seconds against the Jaguars as she sank a late layup and free throw to send Ethan to the state tournament.

“Everything we got, it was hard earned. And I think everything they got was hard earned,” Ethan coach Tom Young said. “It just came down to one play, and fortunately for us, we get to go on.”

At 56.2 points per contest, Ethan is No. 7 in scoring in Class B, and their combination of well-rounded offense and stifling defense puts the Rustlers at No. 2 in the class in terms of point differential, behind only the No. 3 seed in the state tournament, Viborg-Hurley.

Of the other seven teams in the field, the Rustlers have only played Howard in a game they won 61-54 on Jan. 27.

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Ethan, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, takes on seventh-seeded Castlewood in the first round on Thursday, March 9, at the Huron Arena. With a win, the Rustlers would match up with the winner of Howard versus Viborg-Hurley in the semifinals.

To get there, though, Young said his team has to stick to what’s worked for them this season, though he acknowledged that it will be imperative for his squad to convert more on offense than it did against the Jaguars.

“We’re going to have to do what we’ve done all year,” Young said. “We’re going to have to play solid defense, take care of the basketball, not turn the ball over and hit some shots."

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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