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Ellis girls off to good start




QUINTER -- Ellis High School girls' basketball coach Perry Mick looks to move sophomore Alexcia Deutscher around the floor. Deutscher, an all-state and first team all-area selection as a freshman, is a speedy, strong player. To take advantage of her quickness, Ellis might put her at the front of its trademark press or at an intercepting spot.

The Railers encourage Deutscher to get the outlet pass or dribble out following a defensive rebound.

"Our feeling is, anything that puts her out in space is good for her," Mick said. "We don't have a lot of things designed in the offense around her. It's more the transition game, we try to move her, but she is so fast and such a good jumper that we get her out in space and good things are going to happen."

Through four games, Deutscher has delivered at a similar rate to her freshman season. Plus, the Railers have seen improvement from several juniors and seniors that have helped replace Bailey Hensley, a four-year starter and first team all-league player at point guard.

For the second straight winter, Ellis opened 3-1 with a runner-up finish to Hoxie at last weekend's Castle Rock Classic in Quinter. Hoxie is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A Division I and on a 52-game winning streak. The Railers' strong weekend propelled Ellis to No. 10 in Class 2A in the latest rankings released Monday.

"We have more girls that come out and can expend a lot of energy," Mick said. "Hopefully, that's a plus for us this year. We are fairly deep. I feel really comfortable down to about eight or nine people, and we are going to rotate them out there, so then we can play hard. That's the way I want us to look. We want to play aggressive in that zone-trap."

Through four contests, Ellis has averaged 66.3 points per contest and allowed 46.3. The Railers opened with a 57-47 win against Phillipsburg, then beat Bird City-Cheylin 92-37 in the first round at Quinter, the most points Ellis has scored in Mick's 14-plus years.

"I am almost embarrassed about that," Mick said. "We put the JV in in the second quarter. What happened was the other team, they had already gotten wore out from the pressure, and then I can't tell the JV not to try, and the JV just really lit it up. Every single one of them scored."

Ellis delivered two quality games Friday and Saturday. First, it defeated Golden Plains, then-ranked No. 2 in Class 1A Division II, 60-37. Last year, Ellis won 63-57. The Railers fell to Hoxie, 64-56. Hoxie defeated Dighton by the same score Friday. It marked the two closest regular season games in Hoxie's winning streak.

Last year, Ellis lost 67-41 to the Indians and finished 20-3, tying the school record for wins. Deutscher averaged 17.4 points, 10 rebounds and five steals as a freshman.

This winter, she is at 16.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.3 steals with two double-doubles. She collected 19 points and 20 rebounds against Phillipsburg and 21 points and 14 rebounds versus Golden Plains. Golden Plains played man against Ellis and Deutscher continually used her size and strength for second chance points.

"She has got a quick first step, too," Golden Plains coach Parker Christensen said. "If you are there, she is still going to step up and jump over you, so you don't get a very good contest. The best you can do is then make sure that you can block her out and maybe get a foul or two when she goes over the back."

Junior Stephanie Greenway has mainly taken over for Hensley. She averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds as a sophomore. Now, she is at 10 points and four rebounds with a team best 77 percent free throw rate (min. three attempts).

Senior Kaleigh Soneson averages 11 points and seven rebounds, improvements from 9.1 and 6.4 last winter.

"We are going to rely on Stephanie a lot to bring the ball up," Mick said.

Ellis' depth has yielded several other improving players.

"We don't have that super quick little ballhandler like we had the previous four years, but I think that we are adjusting to it pretty well," Mick said.

Senior forward Monica Towns collected less than two points a game in 2012-13 and has 4.3 points a contest this year. Junior Sarah Mick, the coach's daughter, averaged 3.2 points per game last winter - and 8.8 this season.

Senior Brittany Dinkel has collected five points a night after 3.7 as a junior. Deutscher's play and the improved depth has helped Ellis shoot 46 percent on 2-point shots, went 12-of-39 on 3-pointers and average 41.8 rebounds a game. Through four games last season, the Railers were at 44 percent on 2-point shots and 29.8 rebounds a contest.

"It's going to be a little bit more of a team effort breaking pressure and so forth," Mick said. "But the small guards that are in this year I think bring something to the game that maybe Bailey didn't in that they can all shoot 3s, they are a little better jump shooters."