Rarely do things go as well in the heat of a game as they do in practice.
But with Ellsworth visiting on Tuesday, Red Wing boys basketball coach Doug Toivonen saw the Wingers play as they practiced, with near-perfect results.
“(On Monday), I thought we had one of our best practices we’ve had in the last four or five years,” Doug Toivonen said. “Everything was going well and guys were passing the ball well.
“What happened in practice, that really transferred over into the game tonight.”
Tuesday’s Border Battle quickly became a blowout as Red Wing went on a 30-point first-half run, cruising to an 84-50 non-conference victory over the visiting Panthers.
“We were all fired up,” said senior forward Isaac Toivonen, who finished with 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting. “They’re so close to us. Even if we don’t know their guys, it’s a rivalry game with both schools being so close. It was a good win for us.”
And it was a game that left Ellsworth befuddled. Going down low to senior big man Kyle Murphy early on, the Panthers jumped out to a 7-4 lead four minutes into the game.
And that’s when the wheels fell off.
Starting with a jumper by Jon Sevlie and accelerated by three consecutive 3-pointers by the Wingers, Ellsworth’s lead evaporated into an eight-point deficit in just 95 seconds.
“They’re a good shooting team,” said Panthers’ head coach Corey Enberg. “They shot well from the outside and we didn’t have an answer for them.”
With Red Wing (4-0) scoring in the paint and on the perimeter, Ellsworth could not stop the bleeding as the Wingers took a 34-7 lead following a three-point play by Sevlie.
“Everyone was gaining confidence and everyone starting making (shots),” said Wingers senior guard Nick Powers, who scored 18 points off the bench thanks to a 4-for-6 night from 3-point range.
“We kept finding each other and everything was falling.”
Nick Taranto finally stopped Red Wing’s streak with a layup and got the Panthers on the board for the first time in 10 minutes, 12 seconds at the 5:06 mark. But by then, Ellsworth was down 34-9.
“It was hard to keep the motivation there,” Enberg said. “It’s a tough situation to be in, and we wanted to see how they responded to this situation.”
Meanwhile, the Wingers continued to pour it on, taking a 48-17 halftime lead into the locker room.
“They came out on fire and played really aggressive,” Doug Toivonen said. “Once we got it going, we had a nice stretch there in the first half. You could tell the guys were playing with a lot of confidence.”
That confidence carried over into the second half as the Wingers increased their lead to 66-23. Ty Buck led the second-half surge, scoring 11 of the team’s first 18 points after the break. He finished with a game-high 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting.
But it wasn’t just the usual suspects that did all the damage on Tuesday. Along with Powers’ 18 points, Travis Toivonen tacked on 14 points as the Wingers’ bench accounted for 44 points. As a team, Red Wing shot 56 percent from the field, compared to 38 percent for Ellsworth.
“Our depth is something that you can’t take for granted,” Isaac Toivonen said. “We got nine guys why can all play varsity basketball and can all play against the starting five. It’s nice when Powers, Travis and Ben Munson can come off the bench and put up big numbers, get good rebounds and do everything a normal starter does. It’s nice having that as your backup when they could be starters for most teams.”
The Panthers were led offensively by Chrystian Kulow and Emery Whalen, who had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Off the blowout victory, Red Wing looks to go 5-0 when it hosts Hastings on Friday. Ellsworth (1-2) will lick its wounds and try to get back in the win column on the road Friday in Middle Border Conference play against New Richmond.
“This was a good non-conference game for us to have. This Red Wing team is very good and they’ll do well in the state,” Enberg said. “This just gets us ready for our conference play to see what we can do at that time.”