Towns siblings chipping in at Ellis
By CONOR NICHOLL
QUINTER -- Around seven years ago, the Towns family moved into a new house near Palco. Monica and Alex and their siblings wanted to have a basketball court and goal. To the surprise of their mother, the kids created a grass basketball court and drew lines. The grass court still receives plenty of use for a family of nine kids, ages 21 to four months.
Monica, involved in multiple rodeo and FFA activities, doesn't play basketball in the summer with Ellis High School. Instead, she hones her game at the family court.
"I just worked and worked," said Towns, a senior. "I took pointers from coach. I really pushed myself. I was like, 'I am going to get on that varsity team. I am going to play a lot,' so that's what pushed me."
Alex, a sophomore, didn't start for a one-loss junior varsity team last year. However, both have been the most improved players for the Railroaders this winter -- and delivered memorable moments on Friday night.
"We get really competitive when we play together, but she has learned a lot from me, and I have learned a lot from her," he said.
Ellis hit two buzzer-beaters, including a 3-pointer from the left side in overtime from Alex for a 64-63 victory against Rawlins County in the semifinals of the Castle Rock Classic. Alex was mobbed by his coaches and teammates and then by a group of fans, including his sister.
"It was just awesome," Towns said.
The contest went to overtime because of the game's first buzzer-beater, a layup from junior Eli Lohrmeyer that tied the game at 58. Ellis, with three seniors and virtually a brand new team, came back against a bigger, more experienced Buffs squad that had five seniors. Both Ellis teams were to play Hoxie for the championships Saturday night. The Ellis girls were 3-0, while the boys were 2-1.
"They are just good kids, they don't give up, they don't have any quit in them," Ellis boys' coach Chris Rorabaugh said. "There were several times that we could have thrown in the towel, I thought. We were down by eight a couple of times."
In the girls' game, Ellis defeated Rexford-Golden Plains, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A Division II, 60-37. Sophomore Alexcia Deutscher finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Towns contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds. The 5-foot-9 Towns averaged less than two points per game last year.
"I have heard that from so many parents this year that she has just really improved," Ellis girls' coach Perry Mick said. "She is a tall, athletic girl and she has gotten a lot better this year. Her shot looks good. She positions herself well. She rebounds well. I am really pleased with her. She has done a nice job for us."
Ellis led 24-13 at halftime despite cold shooting from both teams. The Railers shot just 9 of 31 before the break, while Golden Plains was 4 of 29. Ellis went 17 of 31 after intermission. Golden Plains finished 11 of 50.
"I don't get too caught up in shooting percentages," Mick said. "Sometimes for me, you start thinking about that too much, and you start passing up shots that girls can make. I want to take a lot of shots. I want to get a lot of possessions. We didn't make a lot of 3s tonight (1 of 9), some nights we do."
Golden Plains senior Jordan Christensen, a returning second team all-state player, finished 2 of 12 for eight points.
"They were quicker to all the loose balls," Golden Plains coach Parker Christensen said. "We had some good shots, but we probably rushed them a little bit, but that's what their plan is to do. They going to pressure you, make you play a little bit quicker than what you want to, but they were definitely more aggressive in the first half than we were."
Ellis finished with a 51-44 edge on the glass and scored often off offensive rebounds and second and third chances. Towns, who has impressed the coaching staff since early practices, started the first round game Tuesday and came off the bench Friday. Mick expects to rotate her throughout the lineup this season. Towns scored off an offensive rebound for a 30-17 lead with 4:32 left in the third quarter, and scored again on an inbounds pass in the final third quarter seconds.
"I really am surprised," Towns said of her year. "I came into the season, I am going to keep a positive attitude about it, and then I've just started playing more and kept on getting more confidence."
On the boys' side, Alex came off the bench and tallied a team-high 19 points. Rorabaugh called him "by far" the most improved player. Towns stepped up, especially late after sophomore forward Brendon Brenner and senior forward Josh Tway fouled out. Junior Brandon Bollig, who started the season strong with a couple of big offensive games, had an off night. Senior James Peterson led Rawlins County with 26 points and senior Cameron Ginther had 21.
"I know he scored some points and made some 3s, but he really helped us on the defensive end no matter if it's full court, half court," Rorabaugh said. "He just gets after it, which I really like."
In the overtime, Towns made a trey to cut Atwood's lead to 62-61.
He later had a steal, but Ellis couldn't score on the possession. With 5.5 seconds left, senior Dylan Tiemeyer made 1 of 2 free throws and set the stage for Towns' trey.
"I am speechless," he said.