High School Sports

Chiawana's Ellsworth: Peaking at the right time

PASCO -- Shelby Ellsworth spent the past two seasons being the young pup on a veteran Pasco girls basketball team.

This year, when Ellsworth moved over to Chiawana along with coach Steve Davis, that all changed.

Ellsworth went from being the baby of the team to a veteran leader, and she was no longer expected to defer to her teammates.

"Last year, she had a bunch of kids who were scorers ahead of her," Davis said. "This year, her role's different."

And at last week's 4A Eastern Regional tournament, Ellsworth started to show a scorer's mentality she'd flashed only in brief spurts.

Ellsworth, who averaged only 7.0 points during the regular season, led the Riverhawks at 14.3 ppg and earned first-team all-tourney honors as they finished second to Mead, losing in overtime in the final.

Chiawana (23-3) opens the 4A state tournament at 2 p.m. today against Federal Way at the Tacoma Dome.

"That's something we've been waiting for Shelby to do for a while," Davis said. "In her mind, that's not her thing, to be a scorer. But it has to be, and hopefully she'll continue to do that for us."

That's because teams began loading up in the second half of the season on juniors Hayley Hodgins and Mikaela Rivard.

"We didn't treat Shelby as if we had to lock her down," said Southridge coach Scott Stiles, whose team lost to Chiawana twice in the playoffs. "She was someone who every once in a while would score a lot, but then wouldn't score for quite awhile.

"But Shelby's pretty much an all-around player for them. You don't know who to guard her with."

The Suns tried with junior Paige Sorensen, a scrappy guard who gave up 5 inches to the 5-foot-10 Ellsworth. The Riverhawks put Ellsworth in the post, where she overpowered Sorensen in scoring 14 points in a 56-51 regional first-round win.

Then in the semifinals, Lewis & Clark put a post on Ellsworth, who simply took her defender off her dribble time and again, scoring 15 points in a 59-52 win.

She followed that up with 14 points in the Mead loss, making her 6-for-6 reaching double figures in the postseason after doing so only four times in 20 regular-season games.

"Sitting on the bench at regionals, coach (Scott) Bond said to me, 'No one can stop you from getting to the hoop,' " Ellsworth recalled. "But I've never really been a scorer. My job was to go out there, get my rebounds, play good defense, be that person who made sure everyone knows what they're supposed to do.

"But I knew that these teams we're playing were good, and I had to step up to get us where we want to go."

That's the Tacoma Dome, where the Riverhawks open this afternoon against a Federal Way team that beat them 55-48 in Pasco during Christmas break.

"That game was so long ago, honestly, I can't remember them," said Ellsworth, who sports a 4.0 GPA and hopes to become a nurse-practitioner.

What Ellsworth does know is that she and her team have matured quite a bit since then.

"We definitely know each other a lot better on the court, our strengths and weaknesses," she said. "We're more comfortable with each other now."

And Ellsworth is growing more comfortable in her new role as a leader.