GYPSUM — All Molly Chitty needed was a little help from her friends, and Friday night she got it when Meredith Tillberg and Karsyn Schlesener found the range from distance.
In recent outings, Chitty, Southeast of Saline’s post player, has been struggling to just move around zone defenses packed in to stop her in the paint.
But in a 41-23 win over Ellsworth, Chitty found the going much easier when the two Trojan guards hit from deep. The Bearcat defense had to extend out to defend the arc and in turn gave Chitty room to come up with another double-double.
“It was very important,” Chitty said. “Lately we haven’t been shooting that well from the outside and to have Meredith and Karsyn hit like that was amazing. I don’t think (Ellsworth) was expecting that since I don’t think that was on any of our recent game film, and it took a lot of pressure off me on the inside.”
Southeast's 5-foot-10 senior finished 7 of 12 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds for her team-high totals.
While Chitty, Tillberg and Schlesener were providing the offense, the Trojan defense was creating havoc.
Coming in a trapping half-court zone, Southeast (3-3 NCAA, 8-4 overall) went to a full-court press in the second quarter then fell back into a 2-3 zone
By intermission, Southeast forced 14 Ellsworth (2-4, 3-10) turnovers and built a 30-13 lead.
“We started in our half-court trap since we weren’t sure we were going to press,” Southeast coach Shauna Smith said, “but when we saw it was going to hurt them a little bit, we put our personnel in that we needed to get some steals and we stayed in it.
“We got some easy buckets out of and it really got us going in the second quarter.
“We’re still learning. I got a ton of kids in tonight to try and find the right combinations since we’re getting to that part of the season where we are going to know who’s going to be playing.”
Schlesener ended with 11 points and Tillberg 10. Jaide Talbott was the top scorer for Ellsworth with nine points while Lakyn Tenbrink grabbed 12 rebounds.
Ellsworth boys 43, SE Saline 42
Avery Haxton drilled a 15-foot jumper from the right baseline on an inbounds play at the buzzer to lift the Bearcats.
In a game that never saw more than a four-point lead for either team, the fact that Haxton had the chance to win it was remarkable and gave the 6-foot-4 sophomore the chance to make up for what looked to be the winning play for Southeast (2-4 NCAA, 3-9 overall).
Haxton had taken nearly the same shot with 18 seconds left, but Nick Montgomery grabbed the rebound and heaved a full-court pass to Jaxson Gebhardt for an uncontested layup with 15 seconds left that put Southeast in front, 42-41.
In somewhat of a desperation heave, Bransen Schulte connected on a 3-point attempt from 35 feet with 9.9 seconds to go.
After a quick timeout to set his defense for a steal attempt, Ellsworth coach Ryan Webber had his prayers answered when the inbounds pass was deflected. In a scramble for the ball, the Trojans' Bryant Banks was ruled out of bounds with 7.1 seconds left.
A non-shooting foul with 2.9 seconds left gave the ball to Ellsworth under its own basket and Haxton converted.
“Unfortunately, we should have picked (Schulte) up early, but we didn’t,” Southeast coach Bryson Flax said. “They made plays and we gave them a couple of extra opportunities and that was that.”
Schulte led the Bearcats (2-4, 3-10) with 19 points and Haxton finished with 12. Banks led Southeast with 14.