Ellis girls win battle of ranked teams
By CONOR NICHOLL
ELLIS -- The Ellis High School girls' basketball team has long played an uptempo, fast-break style under coach Perry Mick. This winter, the Railroaders have often used a half-court press and used between eight to nine players.
"One thing that we have been preaching all year is that sometimes it isn't overly effective at the beginning, but if we rotate people and if we make the other team work hard enough, that by about the third quarter, we tend to see some results," Mick said.
That occurred again Tuesday night. Ellis led by one midway through the third quarter against Ness City, but forced turnovers on five straight possessions. The Railers finished the quarter on a 9-0 run and collected a 67-46 victory.
"It would be nice to press hard and just jump out on somebody," Mick said. "We have done that at times this year. Tonight, Ness City handled it really well, especially at the beginning."
Ellis moved to 6-1, while Ness City dropped to 5-2. Last season, the Railers finished with nine wins, while the Eagles also had single-digit victories. But both teams moved into the KBCA rankings for the first time Tuesday. The Eagles ranked at No. 7 in Class 2A, while Ellis stood at No. 9.
"We kind of ran out of a little gas," first-year Ness City coach Curtis Foos said. "Missing some key shots and some bad passes that we made kind of took us out of the game."
The Railers continued to have a terrific season from 5-foot-9 freshman standout Alexcia Deutscher. She collected 21 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs.
In the press, Deutscher sometimes guarded the ball handler or was an interceptor. Several times, Deutscher grabbed a rebound and quickly dribbled down the floor for scores, a planned play.
"She is just so quick and has such a good reach and so fast that we try to move her around so that we can sneak her some places that they are not expecting it," Mick said. "She sometimes plays the point."
Well-known in the younger ranks, she leads the team with 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and four steals a contest.
"Wow, she has done a really good job for a freshman," Mick said. "Obviously, I have known and a lot of people have known for a long time that she was a good athlete, but to come out here, first year of high school and average (18) through seven games, I am impressed. She has got a lot of physical tools. She is using them really well right now. She is playing smart. She gets a lot of steals. She handles the ball sometimes. She has got a nice little jump shot. She has done a really good job."
Ness City led 19-16 early, but junior point guard Jessie Rubottom, who finished with seven points, sprained her ankle with 4:56 left in the first half and missed the rest of the game. She finished with seven points and sophomore Tristan McVicker led the team with 14 points.
"It really kind of threw our offense out of whack a little bit, because we had to bring some girls around, switch them around a little bit," Foos said.
Senior Bailey Hensley, a four-year starter, finished with 12 points. She started the 9-0 run when she intercepted a pass, knocked it down the court, made a crossover move against an Eagle defender and scored a layup for a 40-36 lead with 1:48 remaining in the third quarter.
"Bailey is really competitive and she is super quick on the court and she loves getting steals and she loves outrunning people," Mick said. "It's pretty much what we have seen from her for four years. I am sure glad we have it."
Less than 20 seconds later, senior Megan Honas collected a steal and found Deutscher for a score.
Then, a turnover at half court led to a 3-pointer from sophomore Stephanie Greenway, who finished with 15 points, including 3-of-4 from long range. Ellis sunk 7 of 15 treys and has made 27 3-pointers this season, already more than it had all of last winter.
"We have got four girls who have consistently made 3s this year," Mick said.
Deutscher finished the run when Ness City turned the ball over. She missed a shot, grabbed her rebound, drew a foul and made two free throws.