by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
For the first time since 2006, Elk River girls basketball has earned a trophy.
The Elks outlasted the Monticello Magic 56-49, powered by center Victoria Jenson, in the finals of Monticello’s eight-team holiday tournament Thursday evening.
“It means a lot. A lot, to us all. This is the first time we’ve won this,” said Jenson, who produced 22 points and nine rebounds, in the final game of four Monticello tournaments in her career.
The Elks had competed there since 2006-07 without winning it. They reached the finals last year, losing to Providence Academy, which didn’t return this year.
The 2005-06 Elks who won the section tournament to advance to state were the last Elk team to win a tournament.
“It’s awesome,” said Mikala Macomber, senior forward. “And now we’re back at .500, too!”
The win was the fifth straight for the Elks, bouncing back from an 0-5 start.
“We were making some mistakes, like too many turnovers, and we have gotten better, working hard in practice,” said Jenson, asked about the win streak.
Shelby Gracik, sophomore guard, added 17 points, including four straight free shots that put the game out of reach.
Jenson, playing in her fourth Monticello Invitational, scored 15 of her 22 points in the second half, shooting 7-for-9 with strong low post moves.
The 5-10 senior is averaging 10.7 points with a previous high of 17, but on this night, her teammates could see she was on a roll and happily obliged by funneling the ball inside every chance they got.
“We were getting the ball in side to Victoria, and that’s when we are strong,” said Macomber.
Monticello, also 5-5, was led by soph guard Grace Sawatzky with 16 points and six rebounds. Her sister Morgan, a 5-10 senior forward, added 11, and guard Tish Jude chipped in nine.
The Magic had a 26-22 rebound edge and made 12 of 13 free shots. The Elks were 7-for-10 at the line.
Elk coach Reed Caouette noted that the Elks beat a team with good quickness, inside and outside punch, and three pretty good athletes in particular, the trio named above.
“We showed some grit, some character, and some toughness, and we made some free throws,” said Caouette. “In the second half, when Monticello went on a run, we responded. We stopped the run (by scoring) and would get a couple defensive stops, too.”
About Jenson’s performance, the coach said:
“Victoria was outstanding tonight. She really stepped up, not only making the big buckets, but grabbing big rebounds on the other end. Victoria played the game she is capable of playing. We need to go through her all the time. Even if she doesn’t score, she is a good passer, too.”
The Elks trailed 23-22 at the half, and forged ahead by as much as 44-38 and 50-43 in the second half.
To reach the finals, the Elks beat Minneapolis Washburn 58-42 and Becker 59-31.
After the uplifting tournament experience, the Elks return to the grueling Northwest Suburban Conference schedule starting Tuesday, hosting Anoka.
Elk River 56, Monticello 49
Elk River – Victoria Jenson 22 (9 reb), Shelby Gracik 17, Holly Skalsky 3, Dani Detloff 4 (2 stl, 2 ast, 3 reb), Jordyn Sohns 5 (4 ast, 2 stl), Mikala Macomber 2 (6 reb), Michelle Botts 0 (2 stl), Anna Rollag 0 (3 ast), Dani Edwards 3
Monticello – Tish Jude 9 (7 reb, 2 stl), Grace Sawatzky 16 (6 reb), Morgan Sawatzky 11 (4 reb), Gabby Laimer 9, Kelly Watson 2, Bailey Bechtold 2, Morgan Lingenfelser 0 (7 reb)