by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Even with a 22-point lead in the second half, and even with their two big guys combining for 59 points, the Rogers Royals had to scrap with the Elk River Elks to the very end.
The Royals got the job done, though, 78-75, led by 6-7 forward Josh Turnquist with 32 points and 6-8 center Michael Schreiber with 27, at RHS on Saturday night for their second straight River Battle win.
“This game is a big deal, for this whole team,” said Turnquist. “They have never beaten us. We’ve won every time since junior high.”
But he added: “Every game has been close, so we knew it wasn’t over.”
The Royals (3-2) led 50-28 when Schreiber picked up his fourth foul with 15:40 left. Then their point guard Jack Anderson left the game with a leg injury with 15:09 left.
The Elks (3-2) took advantage by shaking loose a stream of turnovers and heating up their shooting.
They closed to 63-54 by the time Schreiber re-entered with 7:05 left, after guard Porter Morrell scored seven points in just over two minutes. They got within 72-69 after three’s by Ryan Ness and Clay Elrod. Rogers stayed ahead 77-73 sinking five of eight free shots. Elk soph forward Clay Elrod slashed through the lane to score with :18 left, making it 77-75.
Austin Barbeln made one of two free shots for Rogers with :13 left and the Elks needed a three. They couldn’t launch one until three seconds left, and a soaring Barbeln swatted Tucker Morrell’s attempt from the corner out of bounds. A last-second desperation shot by Elrod missed and the Royals had their victory.
“Our defense wasn’t so good in the second half,” said Tunquist. “We didn’t have that extra edge we had in the first half.
“But a win is a win, and that’s all that matters.”
Rogers led 46-25 at halftime with Turnquist scoring 22 and Schreiber 15.
Still, coach Joe Belka sensed what was coming.
“Our message at halftime was, even though we felt good about holding a good-shooting team to 25 points, we knew that Elk River was not going to lay down, they were going to come out fighting. After we traded baskets for a few minutes, they were in survival mode, and they started to create turnovers all over the floor, and they were knocking down shots.”
Anderson’s injury — Belka said they didn’t know yet how serious — took a toll.
“He’s been the heart and sould of or team. When the ball is in his hands we are pretty comfortable,” said Belka.
Ness led the Elks with 21 points, hitting 5-for-9 from 3-point range and 4-for-4 at the line. Elrod added 13 and guards Landon Werner, Porter Morrell and Tucker Morrell had 11 each.
“Rogers played very well. We were able to rattle them a little bit in the second half and turn them over, but they are a very good basketball team,” said Elk coach Randy Klasen. “When their guard got hurt, they lost a good ballhandler, and we were able to take advantage.”
While Rogers usually has a good shooting from its guards, too, on this night it was mostly up to Turnquist, an inside-outside player who had the best game of his career, shooting 16-for-17 on free shots and 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, and Schreiber, who was 10-fro-11 under the hoop and 7-for-8 at the line.
With the big guys doing most of the shooting, the Royals were 21-for-37 from the floor and 31-for-41 from the line. The Royals enjoyed a 33-20 rebound edge with Schreiber grabbing 11 and Turnquist 10.
“We had no answer for Turnquist and Schreieber,” said Klasen, whose tallest starter is the 6-5 soph Elrod.
Ness acknowledged: “The killed us today. We have to get better against big men.”
When the Elks were down by 22, the Elks obviously didn’t pack it in.
“What you think about is clawing back, trying to get better each possession,” said Ness.
The Elks had been 7-0 against Rogers before losing last year 58-56 when they kept it close by hitting 12 three-pointers. They did the same this year, making 11 of 27.
With the victory the Royals not only keep the River Battle trophy but can claim the District 728 championship as they also beat Zimmerman 78-73.
Next, the Royals play at St. Cloud Tech on Tuesday. Both Elk River and Rogers play in the Tartan tournament Dec. 28-30.
Rogers 78, Elk River 75
Elk River …….. 25 50 — 75
Rogers ……….. 46 32 — 78
Elk River – Bryan Edwards 5 (5 reb), Clay Elrod 13 (4 reb), Coleman Hayes 3 (4 reb), Landon Werner 11, Porter Morrell 11, Ryan Ness 21 (4 reb, 4 stl), Tucker Morrell 11 … Z … Fouled out: P. Morrell … Team totals: 24-58 FG, 11-27 3FG, 16-21 FT, 20 rebounds, 13 turnovers, 28 fouls
Rogers – Austin Barbeln 8, Chase Cleveland 6, Garret Hul 1, Josh Turnquist 32 (10 reb, 2 blk), Michael Schreiber 27 (11 reb), Sam Spilles …. Team totals: 21-37 FG, 5-15 3FG, 31041 FT, 33 rebounds, 23 turnovers, 22 fouls