by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In a game that won’t be remembered as one of the most hotly-contested River Battles, the Elk River Elks held off the Rogers Royals 42-39 on Saturday evening in Rogers.
Neither team could get anything going offensively. Shooting was way off the mark for both teams, in part because both were gassed after grueling conference games the night before. The score stuck at 31-22 for almost seven minutes, in fact.
“We are so tired right now. The kids are exhausted,” said Elk coach Reed Caouette. “A lot of shots were short. We didn’t have any legs left.”
But it was a good weekend for the Elks, who won twice in two nights after losing their first four games.
Just as in their 52-48 win over Coon Rapids, the scoring was spread out with Anna Rolling (nine), Victoria Jenson (eight) and Dani Detloff (seven) leading. The Elks had a key 27-18 rebound edge led by guard Jordyn Sohn with seven, along with six points.
“Our kids definitely get up for Rogers,” said Caouette. “My approach is, just another game, but it means a lot to our kids, and I’m glad it does.”
Sohns said this is always a big game.
“Oh, yeah. Most of their players are in my grade. This goes way back.”
The Elks have won two straight River Battles, cutting Rogers’ lead to 5-3.
It was a tough weekend for Rogers, which was 4-1 before falling to Cambridge-Isanti 52-51 on Friday night and then the Elks.
“Teams have scouted us, and we are seeing better defenses than at the beginning of the season,” said coach Jeremy Digiovanni. “We are not handling pressure very well now. That’s our inexperience showing.”
Jordyn Motter scored 11 for Rogers. Kelsey Frain had nine points, and Emily Reichert and Kirsten Heikkinen added seven each.
Frain sank six straight free shots to spark the Royals into a 34-33 lead after they trailed by nine. Motter struck for a three-point play on a pivot move that gave Rogers its last lead at 39-37.
The Elks regained a 41-39 lead on Jenson’s two free shots with 1:15 left. With both teams still struggling in the final minute, there was just one more point scored, when Mikayla Macomber made the second of two free shots with :17 left for a three-point edge.
Asked what was tough about Rogers, Sohns said: “They are very aggressive. We definitely had to box out. And they have lots of drivers. We had to get up on them.”
Caouette and his players were tired but happy and encouraged.
“We continue to improve our defense and cut down our turnovers,” said Caouette. “Turnovers have been killing us. We rebounded better the last two games.We are working the ball inside and outside better. Even if we don’t score inside, we are setting up our offense with screens and cuts.”
The Royals will host St. Cloud Tech on Tuesday. The Elks next game is Minneapolis Washburn on Tuesday, Dec. 27, at the Monticello tournament.
Elk River 42, Rogers 39
Elk River ………………. 27 15 — 42
Rogers ………………….. 20 19 — 39
Elk River – Holly Sjalsky 3, Jordyn Sohns 6 (7 reb), Dani Detloff 7, Dani Edwards 2, Anna Rollag 9 (3 reb, 3 stl), Shelby Gracik 6, Mikayla Macomber 1 (6 reb), Victoria Jenson 8 (4 reb)
Rogers – Emily Reichert 7, Kirsten Heikkinen 7, Kelsey Frain 9 (5 reb), Jordyn Motter 11 (4 reb), Lindsay Dorr 1, Taylor Paulsrud 4