By RAY STRUNK
Special to the Tribune
HOISINGTON —The 13th Cardinal Winter Jam high school basketball tournament got off to a hot start in the Hoisington Activity Center as the top-seeded Otis-Bison girls survived Ellinwood’s upset bid 45-44.
Ellinwood was bothered early on by the third-ranked Class 1A-Div. 2 Otis-Bison Cougars’ full-court press. The Cougars were able to generate turnovers and build a 19-13 halftime lead behind 11 points from Taylor Regan.
Regan led the Cougars with 18 points. She converted 8-10 free throws.
After trailing 19-13 at halftime, Ellinwood coach Andrew Cherry made some key adjustments that led to a 31-point second half.
“We talked about how we were going to get the ball inside,” said Cherry. “We talked about how we were going to attack the gaps of their zone.”
The strategy paid off and the Eagles chipped away at the Cougars’ lead.
Madison Ward led the offensive attack for the Eagles, scoring six points in just over a minute to cut the lead to two points.
After two free throws from Cougar freshman Maddie Wiltse stretched the lead back out to four, Ellinwood’s Brittney Beck drained a 3-pointer to bring the Eagles within one point.
The momentum continued for the Eagles.
Allison Panning scored five straight points, including a huge 3-pointer to give the Eagles their first lead of the half 29-27 in the third quarter.
A bucket from Cougar Taylor Regan in the final minute of the quarter tied the game at 29-29.
Madison Ward got things started in the fourth quarter for the Eagles with a basket. Beck followed suit with a 3-pointer to give Ellinwood a five point lead.
After a Cougar basket, Ward drained a basket off the backboard despite being fouled. She made the free throw to cap off the old fashioned 3-point-play.
Beck, drained another 3-pointer with 4:28 remaining. This gave the Eagles a 40-31 lead.
The momentum didn’t last long, however.
After implementing a full court press, the Cougars forced turnovers and rattled off six straight points to cut the lead to 40-37 with just over two minutes left.
Panning scored another basket for a 42-37 lead, which was quickly answered with a 3-pointer from Otis-Bison’s Caitlin Schilowsky for a 42-40 score.
Beck picked up her fifth foul on the subsequent Otis-Bison possession sending Regan to the line with a chance to tie the game.
She drained both free throws for a 42-42 tie with under a minute remaining.
After an Eagle turnover, Ward became the second Ellinwood player to foul out in the game’s final minute. Maddie Wiltse made one of two free throws to give Otis-Bison a 43-42 lead.
With 34 seconds remaining, Maddie Hayes missed a crucial free throw that would have tied the game.
Forced to foul and stop the clock, the Eagles sent Otis-Bison’s Cristen Trapp to the line where she converted both free throws, giving the Cougars a 45-42 lead.
Hayes found the basket on the final Ellinwood possession, but two points wasn’t enough. Otis-Bison ran down the final seconds of the clock and walked away with a 45-44 victory.
With the win, Otis-Bison remains undefeated on the season and will face LaCrosse in the semifinals Friday. Ellinwood is still looking for their first win of the season. The Eagles will face Hoisington in the consolation semifinals at the Hoisington Activity Center.
Otis-Bison 45, Ellinwood 44
Otis-Bison 5 14 10 16 — 45
Ellinwood 4 9 16 15 — 44
ELLINWOOD—Madison Ward 4 5-7 13; Brittney Beck 4 1-2 12; Allison Panning 4 2-2 11; Maddie Hayes 2 0-1 4; Kennedy Harrington 2 0-1 4; Totals 16 8-14 44.
OTIS-BISON—Taylor Regan 4 10-12 18; Caitlyn Schilowsky 1 0-0 3; Lacey Mitchell 4 2-4 10; Sheridan Ewy 2 0-0 4; Maddie Wiltse 1 4-7 6; Cristen Trapp 1 2-2 4; Totals 13 18-25 45.
CARDINAL WINTER JAM
Otis-Bison 45, Ellinwood 44
LaCrosse 58, Hoisington 46
Ellsworth 54, Victoria 19
Russell 54, Minneapolis 25