by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River’s basketball season ended with a 78-54 loss to the Buffalo Bison on Tuesday night, followed by the somber, lingering hugs typical of the final game, and a long, emotional locker room address to the team.
“It’s always one of the toughest talks you have to give the team, when the season is over,” said coach Randy Klasen. “These kids have made a big committment and a lot of sacrifices and you always want to see the season extended. And it’s so final for the seniors. That makes it really tough.”
Ben Erickson supplied most of the offense, sinking 28 points in the final game of his four-year varsity career, one game after surpassing the 1,000-point marker. The other seniors bowing out were Will Iverson and Nate Arens.
Buffalo sophomore guard Ethan Freer lit up the Elks for 31 points. Caleb Ruter was next with 12.
These same Elks beat these same Bison 80-79 in the season opener but the two teams went in different directions after that. The Bison started the season 0-3, as they were in the same situation as the Elks with most of last year’s squad graduated, but found their bearings and now have a 20-7 record. The Elks started the season 4-4 but finished 7-20.
Klasen reflected: “Yes, we would have liked to have won more games, but I am proud of them for the fact that we competed hard, had great effort all year, and great attitude. You would just like to see all their efforts and work pay off with one more game.”
This was a small and young Elk team as Klasen chose to let a number sophs and juniors get the varsity experience and take their lumps.
“We definitely had some issues to deal with … having not much experience, and we are not a very big team,” said Klasen. “Some things we struggled with, we struggled with all year, and one of those was not being able to defend. Tonight, with Freer, the guy was awesome, hitting all his shots. For whatever reason teams shot well against us all year.”
Erickson’s 28 points gave him an even 500 this year and put his final total at 1,035.
The loss ended the winter sports season for Elk River.