by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River had a good chance Tuesday night to beat a Champlin Park team that had wasted them by 27 points in December.
The Rebels prevailed again, 70-65, at ERHS, mainly due to 25-for-31 free throw shooting, but had to sweat this one out, in an entertaining game with both teams freewheeling and aggressive.
“We really wanted this one badly, after they thumped us so badly last time,” lamented Elk coach Reed Caouette, whose team was not interested in moral victories after winning four straight games and eight of nine.
The Elks (5-5 conference, 9-7 overall) had a potent offensive game except for a late and crucial free throw slump, while giving up 70 points for the first time this year.
“We were a step slow on defense,” said Caouette.
Junior forward Kate Darnell nailed 22 points for the Rebels, mainly by driving to the hoop. She was 9-for-11 at the line. Junior forward Hannah Marthaler added 14 and sophomore forward Kalli Zimmerman 13.
Senior forward Makenzie Frericks laid in 15 points to lead the Elks. Senior post Victoria Jenson hit 14, sophomore guard Jordyn Sohns 12, senior guard Kayti Hanson nine, and senior guard Annie Sizen seven.
The Rebels, who decimated the Elks 64-37 on Dec. 7, are 6-4 in conference and 10-6 overall.
The Elks were a decent 22-for-31 on free shots but just 3-for-8 down the stretch while the Rebels were burning up the nets at the other end.
The Rebels nailed 15 straight free shots late in the game — actually 16 straight, but Darnell stepped on the line for that one and it was nullified.
“Champlin Park has too many kids in the program not to have good free throw shooters,” said Caouette. “They shoot very well, and then we put them on the line that many times.”
The Rebels also had a 5-1 edge on 3-point shots, one each by five different players. They hit four in the first half and led 34-30.
The only trifecta for the Elks was hit by Sizen with 7:30 left and gave her team their first lead of the second half 55-53.
The Elks kept the game exciting as Jenson scored on an alley-oop pass from Hanson for a 59-57 lead. McKinley Moore immediately hit a 3-pointer from the wing and Darnell slashed the lane for a 3-point play to regain a 63-59 lead for the Rebels. With 2:50 left, Hanson missed two free shots but Jenson yanked down the rebound and scored, making it 63-62.
But the Rebels pulled away with seven straight free shots. They led 70-62 in the final seconds before a 3-point play by Frericks closed the gap to five at the end.
Elk River plays at Maple Grove on Friday evening.