by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River basketball coach Randy Klasen was elated to be presented with his 400th victory, but even more pleased that his team has started 2-0 against two traditionally strong programs.
The Elks pummeled Centennial 81-64 with torrid shooting and taut defense at home Thursday evening, led by Tucker Morrell with 22 points, Ryan Ness with 18, Clay Elrod with 16 and Porter Morrell with 12.
“It took a while to get there,” said Klasen, alluding two two
losing seasons in the last two years –the only two times under .500 in his long career.
His 400 wins includes 229 with the Elk boys and 171 with the Elk girls.
The Elks were 7-20 last year, the fewest wins in Klasen’s career, and have mostly the same lineup, with scoring/rebounding leader Ben Erickson the big loss. So far this group seems to have shaken off last year admirablly.
“All that experience helps,” said Klasen. “We’ve got a lot of guys who started games last year. Experience makes it easier at the start of the season.”
The Elks beat perennial power Buffalo 50-41 in their opener there Tuesday.
“We have some good athletic ability, and we look like a good defensive team, from what I’ve seen our first two games,” assessed the coach.
It’s encouraging that the Elks have beaten two teams who had won their first game. Buffalo topped Maple Grove 57-53, and Centennial zapped Forest Lake 81-67.
“We defended real well, and Centennial is a good offensive team; they had 81 points in their first game,” Klasen noted. “We made it tough for them to get good looks (for shots), and we didn’t let them get to the free throw line, and they didn’t get many fast breaks.”
The Elks sizzled outside the arc, hitting 12-for-23 on three-pointers, and at the line, 25-for-30. Free shots were the margin of victory as the Elks had just 12 fouls and Centennial was 1-for-2 at the line.
Tucker Morrell, 5-9 senior guard, nailed six of seven 3-pointers, and was 7-for-8 at the line.
“Tucker is a kid who, if he hits one, you better be careful,” said Klasen, “because when he feels a little ‘bounce’ he can put a string of them together.”
Ness, 6-2 senior forward, cashed 11 of 12 free shots, and Elrod, 6-5 sophomore forward, was 3-for-4 on three’s.
The Elks passing was sharp, tool, with assists on 18 of the 22 field goals, led by Porter Morrell with six and Ness with five.
Centennial was led by senior guard Jared Nelson with 19 points, including 5-for-10 on 3-pointers, and senior guard Mitchell Kuck with 16 points.
The Elks, having won the conference opener, now face the NW Suburban power, Osseo, ranked No. 3 in the state, there Tuesday.
Elks 81, Centennial 64
Centennial …….. 22 42 – 64
Elk River ………… 38 42 – 81
Centennial – Dan Becken 6, David Snell 2, Jared Nelson 19 Josh DeWitt 3, Luke Thornquist 10, Michael Kruck 16, Ryan Grow 2 …. Team: 27-56 FG (9-22 3pt), 1-2 FT, 21 rebounds
Elk River – Bryan Edwards 4 (3 ast, 8 reb), Clay Elrod 16, Coleman Hayes 3, Landon Werner 6, Porter Morrell 12 (6 ast, 3 stl), Ryan Ness 18 (5 ast), Tucker Morrell 22 … Team: 22-46 FG (12-23 3pt), 25-30 FT, 24 rebounds