HURON — The top-seeded and unbeaten Ethan Rustlers took a step toward a second State Class “B” girls’ title Thursday afternoon, breaking open a tight game and rolling to a 52-40 win over the upset-minded Waverly-South Shore Coyotes at Huron Arena.
The win pushes Ethan’s record on the season to 23-0 and moves the Rustlers into tonight’s championship semifinals against Freeman. W-SS drops to 15-8 and will play Warner at noon today in the consolation semifinals.
The Rustlers came in as the favorites in the game, but nobody told Waverly-South Shore as the Coyotes traded shots with Ethan throughout the first half. A late layup from Karly Gustafson gave Ethan an 11-7 lead after the first period.
The Coyotes’ strategy of getting the ball down low to 6-foot, 2-inch Emily Kranz began to pay off in the second quarter, as the sophomore scored on consecutive possessions to keep W-SS close. A three-pointer from Carly Heuer cut the lead to a single point for Ethan, at 15-14, and a missed free throw by Heuer resulted in an offensive rebound for teammate Payton Comes, who converted to give Waverly-South Shore their first lead since early in the game. Erin Comes scored on the Coyotes’ next possession to make it 18-15 and forcing Ethan coach Tom Young to call time out.
But the wheels began to come off for Waverly-South Shore out of the timeout, as Ethan closed the quarter on an 11-2 run. Gustafson scored on back-to-back possessions, somehow finding a bit of daylight between Coyote defenders on the baseline. Maddie Miiller connected from behind the arc and Gustafson got open in the middle of the W-SS defense again.
Adaya Plastow closed the half with a layup off a Coyote turnover as Ethan took a 26-20 lead into the break.
“We talked at halftime about how we needed to remain poised,” said Young after the game. “We’ve always been able to rely on our defense and we refocused and clamped down defensively in the third quarter.”
Ali Kranz got Waverly-South Shore on the board first to open the second half, but back-to-back three-pointers from Jessica Bartscher quickly moved the margin from four to 10 points and Ethan was off and running. The teams traded baskets until the final seconds of the quarter, when the Rustlers got Bartscher free from her favorite left-wing spot and she drilled the three at the buzzer to give Ethan a 13-point cushion, at 41-28 headed to the final quarter.
Waverly-South Shore needed a quick start to get back in the game and it never came, as Ethan got the first nine points of the quarter, going up 50-28 at the five minute mark and coasting home from there.
“We definitely fed off our defense in the second half and Jessica hit a couple of big shots,” Young said. “We’ve been able to get contributions from everyone, from the first player to the last one on the bench in games and in practice and that happened again here today.”
Gustafson led all scorers with 16 points and also claimed nine rebounds. Bartscher contributed 12 points, all three-pointers, and Logan added 11 points in the game.
Erin Comes had nine points, while both Ali Kranz and Emily Kranz chipped in eight. Emily Kranz had seven boards and sister Ali claimed six.
Waverly-South Shore 7 20 28 40
Ethan 11 26 41 52
Waverly-South Shore (15-8): Bailey Richter 2 0-0 6; Ali Kranz 4 0-0 8; Lydia Schroeder 1 0-0 2; Erin Comes 4 0-0 9; Payton Comes 2 0-0 4; Emily Kranz 3 2-4 8; Carly Heuer 1 0-1 6. Totals: 17 2-5 40.
Ethan (23-0): Jessica Bartscher 4 0-0 12; Maddie Miiller 2 0-0 6; Mollie Miiller 1 0-0 2; Adaya Plastow 1 0-0 2; Callie Hohn 1 1-2 3; Karly Gustafson 7 2-3 16; Cameryn Logan 4 2-2 11. Totals: 20 7-13 52.
FG: WSS - 17-36 47%; E - 20-38 53%. 3-pt FG: WSS - 4-11 36% (Richter 2, E. Comes, Heuer); E - 7-13 54% (Bartscher 4, Maddie Miiller 2, Logan). Rebounds: WSS - 24 (E. Kranz 7, A. Kranz 6); E - 16 (Gustafson 9). Turnovers: WSS - 23; E - 16. Fouls: WSS - 12; E - 11.