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Top-ranked Ethan looks to lead with defense

ETHAN--The Ethan girls basketball is out to prove defense wins championships. Heading into their third straight Class B state tournament, the Rustlers have their eyes on the school's second state championship and they'll look to shut down opponen...

The Ethan girls basketball team heads to the bench following the end of a quarter during a game earlier this season in Forestburg. (Matt Gade / Republic)
The Ethan girls basketball team heads to the bench following the end of a quarter during a game earlier this season in Forestburg. (Matt Gade / Republic)

ETHAN-The Ethan girls basketball is out to prove defense wins championships.

Heading into their third straight Class B state tournament, the Rustlers have their eyes on the school's second state championship and they'll look to shut down opponents with their hard-nosed man-to-man defense.

On the season, Ethan is allowing an average of 25.2 points per game. That's more than eight points better than the second-best defense in the tournament from Sully Buttes, which is holding teams to an average of 33.7 points per game.

Up first for No. 3-seeded Ethan is No. 6 Avon. The Rustlers (22-1) and Pirates (21-2) will clash at 7:45 p.m. tonight at the Huron Arena in Huron. The winner will face either No. 2 Sully Buttes or No. 7 Parker in the semifinals at 7:45 p.m. on Friday.

"We are going to have to keep up our defense," said Kacey Bartscher, who is averaging 13.6 points per game. "Offensively, we have to keep moving the ball. We are really good at sharing the ball. We don't care about scoring, we care about winning."

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After reaching the championship game the past two seasons, the Rustlers have one of the most experienced rosters in the tournament with six seniors. Ethan head coach Tom Young said his team doesn't want its season to end and added the experience his team has should benefit the Rustlers.

"It helps, but it adds a lot of pressure," said Young, who is in his third season coaching the Rustlers. "We know there are good teams out there. We just have to take it one at a time."

Karly Gustafson leads the Ethan offense with an average of 14 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Ellie Hohn averages 11.5 points per game and Rachel Hawkins chips in an average of 9.5 points and 5.4 assists per game.

The Rustlers average 61.3 points per game and have shot above 50 percent from the field on the season. Adding in Amanda Miiller, Janae Gustafson and the aforementioned Ethan standouts, the Rustlers have six players who shoot better than 47 percent from the field, showcasing the team's offensive efficiency.

"We just have bought into the team concept," Young said. "We don't care who scores. We always want to play defense and play defense together as a team. We share the ball and get the best shot possible."

Ethan hasn't lost to a Class B opponent this season and has beaten three tournaments teams-Avon (60-20), Sully Buttes (59-53 in overtime) and Sanborn Central/Woonsocket (62-29). The Rustlers' lone loss came against St. Thomas More, the three-time defending Class A state champions, 53-51. They've rattled off 13 wins since that game on Jan. 14 at the Corn Palace.

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