Ellinwood was riding a 7-game win streak before losing to perennial powerhouse St. John last Tuesday. That lit a fire underneath the No. 9 Eagles (2A) that was still burning a week later thanks to weather cancelations last Friday. Playing as the No. 3 seed in Hoisington's Winter Jam, the Eagles had no troubled advancing past Victoria in a 69-26 rout.
"We were very conscious about trying to have a good performance," said Ellinwood coach Derek Joiner. "We felt like, in the previous two games, the teams played harder than us. We wanted to make sure we were the harder-playing team. We might have pressed on offense these those first few finishes. We knew if the effort was there, we knew we would push it out ahead."
Eagle senior David Hammeke missed his first three shots of the game. He made up for it with a flurry of baskets in a short stretch. After a drive to the rim, he picked off Victoria passes and turned them into points for an 8-5 Ellinwood lead three minutes in.
Hammeke, along with freshmen Brit Dutton and Tyler Stuhlsatz have been a giant 1-2-3 punch for the Eagles in the first half of the season. Stuhlsatz was out of action Tuesday but Hammeke and Dutton did their parts early. Dutton scored all nine of his points in the first quarter, and Hammeke added eight in the frame as the Eagles jumped to a 19-5 lead after one.
The points kept coming in the second quarter. Senior Tyler Knop hit an early three, then senior Kyler Doll scored five points in quick succession. The Knights had few answers against the Eagle press, falling behind 39-10 by halftime.
"We've been good at turning people over this year and Victoria has struggled taking care of the ball this year," Joiner said. "We knew that was something that could be a big advantage for us. Our guys had active hands and they flew around a little bit, and that turned out to be a big advantage for us."
Five Eagles scored in a busy third quarter. Hammeke added six points to finish his evening with 17 points, six rebounds and a handful of steals. Knop finished with 10 points, and Dutton and Doll each scored five points. Victoria senior Kirk Huser paced his side with nine points, and junior Jason Karst added seven points and three boards.
Victoria falls to Thursday's consolation semifinal against Pratt. Ellinwood gets a rematch against LaCrosse. The Leopards beat Ellinwood by five points in the season-opener.
"We're excited about trying our best to absolve that loss the best we can," said Joiner. "We should have Tyler (Stuhlsatz) back and ready to go for that game. I think people are excited about the tournament. Hoisington is right down the road from us and there are some good teams in the semifinals, so it should be a lot of fun."