Basketball: Royal boys seeded 2nd, Elks 3rd; could meet again

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

The Rogers and Elk River basketball teams are seeded second and third in the wide-open Section 8AAAA tournament that starts Tuesday, and would meet for the third time this year if both win.

Rogers (18-8), playing in Class 4A for the first time, will  host No. 7 St. Cloud Tech (15-11), while Elk River (14-12) will host No. 6 Bemidji (13-12), each Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The other pairings are No. 8 Brainerd (13-12) at No. 1 Buffalo (17-9) and No. 5 Moorhead (15-9) at No. 4 St. Michael-Albertville (20-6).

The QRF ratings that determine seedings put Buffalo first even though Rogers was 1-1 against the Bison and finished ahead of them in conference, and Elk River beat them 50-41 in the Elk season opener. STMA was fourth despite having the best record and sharing the Mississippi 8 title with Rogers, a game ahead of Buffalo.

“I don’t know exactly how it works,” said Rogers coach Joe Belka. “But we were happy to get the second seed. All you really want is to get that one home game, and that’s all you can get anyway.”

The tournament will resume Saturday with semifinals at St. Cloud State.

The QRF system takes into account won-lost records and strength of schedule.

“It worked well for us, better than the point system we used to have, which favored teams playing a weaker schedule,” said Elk coach Randy Klasen.

Klasen pointed out that the Elks played Class 4A teams in 24 of 26 games, while Buffalo played 17 Class 4A teams, Rogers 14, STMA 13, and the others eight or less.

Buffalo got some points by beating  4A teams, Maple Grove (15-10), Chanhassen (21-5) and Tech.

There’s no ranked teams in Section 8AAAA, but, remarkably, every team has a winning record.

“You can’t feel comfortable against any of the teams in the section,” said Belka, whose Royals beat St. Cloud Tech 71-60 during the season.

Added Klasen: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, where everybody has a winning record. The eight seed could beat the one seed and I don’t think it would be a big surprise to anyone.”

Bemidji, noted Klasen, is “not big, and plays mostly zone, and has some real experienced kids,” remembering that three seniors started for them in a game against the Elks when they were freshman. One of them is Cary Woods, an outstanding football player who got strong consideration as a Mr. Basketball candidate, too.

Rogers beat Elk River in twice in December, at the annual River Battle 78-75 and in the fifth-place game at the Tartan tournament 61-55. If both teams win Tuesday, they would meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. at St. Cloud State.