Ethan girls basketball answering the challenge with skilled, young core

Jan. 25—ETHAN, S.D. — New faces, new leaders, no problem for the Ethan Rustlers girls basketball team.

With only a few upperclassmen on this year's team, Ethan had some question marks to answer entering a new season. But junior standout Ava Lingemann and her teammates meeting the challenge early in the season, with an 8-2 record in the first 10 games and standing out as one of the region's top Class B teams once again.

"The work ethic and the attitude of these girls is a 10," Ethan coach Tom Young said. "To me, they've been really fun to coach and they all want to get better and they're team-oriented. When you have a team like that, you can overachieve. So are we over-achieving a little bit? We probably are. I don't think anyone — in our community or around the state — expected us to be much of a factor, but I think if we play well, we can be a factor."

Ethan has looked strongest at shooting the ball this season, Young said. The Rustlers are No. 8 in Class B in scoring offense, averaging 56 points per game, and in a win over Menno last week, made 15 3-pointers. Marissa Storm, a freshman guard, hit six of those 3-pointers and had 26 points.

"Our strength has been shooting the ball and our confidence with that," Young said. "We want to keep working on our defense and our rebounding, and we know both of those are going to be important for us. We have to limit turnovers, so we can have a lot of possessions and make up for our lack of size."

Lingemann is among the Rustlers' most confident players, regularly leading Ethan in scoring. She's averaged nearly 19 points per game over Ethan's last four contests, and recently went over the 1,000-point mark for her career against Menno in a 72-17 win on Jan. 17, and added she had no idea the milestone was close.

"We're seeing a lot of hard work paying off," Lingemann said. "We're expected to be underdogs and I think we're surprising a lot of people. We have a lot of young girls that have stepped up and been important to our team."

Lingemann is in her fourth year of playing varsity, so she understands what it's like to put in time as a young player. She remembers talking with Young prior to the offseason, with the coach challenging her to take her game to an elite level over the offseason.

"She's the one player that has a lot of experience and she's playing with a lot of confidence, which is fun," Young said.

Madeline Bartscher has returned to Ethan's lineup off a knee injury that held her out last season and Storm is getting better nightly, Young said. Lingemann also noted the improvement of sophomore guard Ella Pollreisz and junior Leah Klock.

Lingemann said it's a motivated group that is in the gym frequently over weekends and before school.

"They're putting in the time and doing the work," she said. "There's a lot of days where we'll text that we're going to the gym and Coach Young really pushed us to set goals for ourselves before the season so we'd be ready."

The Rustlers have a record of 8-2, with three-straight victories and wins in eight of their last nine games. The only blemishes have come at the hands of Class A foes Hanson and Wagner.

"We're really young and the kids have really stepped up in the offseason," Young said. "We have a long ways to go but I'm happy with our improvement. Hopefully by February, we're playing our best basketball and I think we have that potential because of our youth. At one point this season, I started two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors, so that shows our youth."

The schedule gets busy this weekend for the Rustlers. Ethan plays Mitchell Christian on Thursday, Jan. 26 at home, followed by another home game on Friday, Jan. 27 with Howard, which is 12-2 on the season. They will also be in action on Saturday, Jan. 28 against Canton at the Sacred Hoops Classic at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls.