They've been teammates before and they'll be teammates again, but on Saturday, Zach Huisken and Casey Schilling were battling back and forth to try to end each other's season.
In the end, Huisken and his Southwest Minnesota Christian teammates were too much for Schilling and Ellsworth to overcome. The Eagles built a lead early in the first half and were able to hold on to it through the rest of the game, earning an 81-66 victory in the Section 3A-South final played at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Huisken, a 6-foot-9 center, scored 22 points, while fellow SWC senior Andrew Top led all scorers with 26 points.
Schilling, who has been wearing a soft cast on his right wrist due to an injury sustained earlier in the season, ended the night with 24 points. Dalton Huisman added 15 points for the Panthers, and Nick Nolte scored 14.
Winners of 19 straight games, the Eagles were more concerned with their defense than their offense in Saturday's matchup. Huisken, who has played AAU ball with Schilling and will play with the Ellsworth standout at Augustana College (S.D.) next season, said the game plan going in against the Panthers was unchanged from when the Eagles won their two previous meetings against Ellsworth during the regular season.
"It was the same as we've been doing all year," Huisken said. "Hedge, hedge hard, recover and have our hands high so Casey can't penetrate and kick it out to their three-point shooters. I thought everyone did well. Casey, he played a heck of a game and I just respect Ellsworth for how hard they played."
(3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Nolte 2-3-2-14, Huisman 3-3-2-15, Ahlers 1-0-0-3, Schilling 0-10-4-24, Leuthold 2-0-0-6, Kvaale 0-0-2, Cheskie 0-1-0-2. Totals 8-16-10-66.
(3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Knutson 1-1-3-8, Top 3-3-11-26, Nibbelink 0-0-5, K. Sampson 2-2-0-10, Vander Maten 0-0-1, Talsma 0-2-5-9, Huisken 0-9-4-22. Totals 6-17-29-81.
In the first half, Top hit a three-pointer and Huisken scored on a putback to give SWC a 19-10 lead. The Eagles went into halftime up 40-33.
Ellsworth worked to chip away at the lead in the second half, and a Schilling putback with 13:03 left in the game cut the lead to 47-43. From there, SWC went on a 12-1 run which started with a three-pointer by Klint Knutson and ended with a three from Top to put his team up 59-44.
The Panthers had one more run in them and cut the lead down to 65-61 with 2:58 left after a three from Mitch Leuthold and a shot in the lane by Schilling.
Ellsworth was forced to foul with the Eagles content to work the ball around and waste time, and SWC went 13-for-16 from the foul line in the final three minutes to seal the win.
The Eagles move on to face 3A-North champion Dawson-Boyd at 8 p.m. Thursday at SMSU.