FASTBREAK: Ellendale needs mentally tough Wagner this winter

ELL vs. LMM 3.jpg
Ellendale's Scott Wanger (52) attacks the basket while being guarded by LaMoure/Litchville-Marion's Zac Thielges (44) during the semifinals of the District 5 boys basketball tournament at the Jamestown Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Ellendale needs a mentally tough Scott Wagner to take the basketball court this winter.

The Cardinals already know they've got a 6-foot-7 all-state talent who's as strong as an ox, but that sometimes worked against the junior center last season. Wagner could sometimes inadvertently bowl double-teaming defenders over simply with brute strength, resulting in offensive fouls called on one of Region 3's star posts.

A younger flock of Cardinals won't be able to fly in 2020-21 with Wagner in foul trouble. Veteran Ellendale coach Brian Vance likened the attention Wagner received as a sophomore defensively to that of former 6-foot-4 all-stater Adam White, a player who rewrote the Ellendale record book before graduating in 2015.

The Cardinals won 16 games last winter and finished fourth at the Region 3 tournament with Wagner averaging 18.6 points and 11 rebounds per night.

"He gets banged on a lot, just like Adam White," Vance said. "I think he got more offensive fouls than he got defensive fouls. He's a big kid so the refs don't call all the little things, and then Scotty gets a little frustrated, he turns hard and the guy flops or whatever and it's an offensive foul."


Vance said Wagner was able to compete over the summer in South Dakota AAU basketball, which hopefully helped his jump shot. The coach would like to have the option of pulling Wagner away from the basket to avoid swarming defenders and potential fouls.

"We've got Scotty down low and that's it. We don't have any other real size," Vance said. "But we've got some good young kids and three seniors that have all seen some time with Wyatt (Henningsen), Eric (Blondo) and Chance (Durheim)."

Henningsen and Blondo both measure 6-1 and combined for nearly 10 points and six rebounds per game as juniors. The Cardinals get after things defensively, as pointed out by the 171 steals the trio collectively produced to help Ellendale limit opponents to less than 50 points in 14 of 25 games played.

The Cards will need to replace some scoring lost to the graduation of Hunter Thorpe, who is playing men's basketball at the University of Jamestown this season. His younger brother, sophomore Riley Thorpe, as well as sophomore Levi Reis, will be looking to pitch in.

Vance also said it's likely a few freshmen will by vying for minutes. Ellendale defeated Oakes in overtime to win the District 5 tournament championship last March but later fell to Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier and Oakes in the region tournament.

"The cupboard's not bare, but our region's gonna be tough," Vance said. "Linton's gonna tougher than heck, Oakes is gonna be tougher than heck; Edgeley's gonna be on a mission that they didn't get to go to state."

A new co-op in the form of Griggs-Midkota, headed up by veteran Midkota coach Mike Monson, also joins District 5 this season. The Titans have players to keep an eye on in the likes of Hunter Gronneberg (15.1 ppg) and Tanner Haugen (13.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg).

"I don't know if any team did a whole lot over the summer? We just did stuff at home and, hopefully, that's gonna be good enough," Vance said. "Every game is gonna matter."


Ellendale’s Riley Thorpe drives against Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier’s Dalton Madcke during their Region 3 tournament semifinal Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Jamestown Civic Center. Chris Aarhus / For The Sun

Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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