by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River girls romped to a 22-4 lead against Rogers on Saturday, scarcely believing the River Battle game could go this easily.
Well, it couldn’t.
The Elks wound up having to scramble from behind late in the game, but got the job done 58-51, led by Shelby Gracik with 23 points and Abi Scheid with 16, to keep their trophy and neighborhood bragging rights.
“That might have been our biggest mistake, getting off to that big lead,” quipped coach Reed Caouette. “We played kind of like we could coast through, and then we got in a little foul trouble.”
The Royals sank 22 of 28 free shots, including 13 straight at one point, as they drew within 31-27 at halftime and took the lead three times late in the game.
“It’s nerves. It’s the rivalry rivalry between Elk River and Rogers, ” said Rogers coach Karlee Anderson. “This is my first year here and but I could feel it as soon as I walked into the gym for the ninth grade game.
“The girls were nervous and you could see it in their faces. But once we settled down and played our game, we started to come back.”
Taylor Anderson tossed in 16 points for the Royals (5-4), with four 3-pointers, the last of which gave her team 48-45 lead.
The Elks quickly regained control with an 8-0 run sparked by Gracik with a layup, two free shots and a nice lob pass to the 6-foot-2 Scheid for a backdoor basket.
“We knew 25 was going to be their go-to girl,” said Anderson. “She controlled the game for her team.”
The Elk girls have won three straight River Battles and still trail 5-4 in the series. As usual, it’s a much-anticipated game even if it’s non-conference.
“This is big. This is the River Battle. Gotta win this one,” said Gracik.
The Elks (7-4) have won three of their last four games and Gracik has 63 points in those three wins.
“I like to score, but whoever scores is fine with me,” said Gracik, who was 8-for-8 on free shots as the Elks were solid themselves at the line, 16-for-24.
Scheid also snagged 14 rebounds, leading the Elks to a 32-27 edge. Rogers’ 6-foot-1 Lindsay Dorr took on Scheid one-on-one and pretty much shut her down for much of the game but Scheid started and finished well.
Dorr had eight points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Kelsey Frain also scored eight, all at the line, going 8-for-8.
The Elks took a quick 12-2 lead sparked by Anna Rollag’s passing as she drove and dumped to Scheid twice for baskets, then kicked out to Gracik for a 3-pointer.
The hosts stayed hot until the lead was 22-4. That’s when the Elks started sending Rogers to the line and the Royals made them pay.
“We have been making 75, 80 percent all year,” said Anderson. “We are a good free throw shooting team. We work on that a lot in practice.”
Plus, Dorr was doing a good job sealing off the inside, and the Elks didn’t have much of an outside game, hitting just two 3-pointers in the game.
But each time Rogers took the lead the Elks quickly spurted back ahead.
“We got some key rebounds and defensive stops and made some key baskets,” said Caouette. “We showed some composure down the stretch and did some good things, and that has been our achilles heel.”
No Christmas tourney for Elks
The Elks won’t be playing in a post-Christmas tournament this year, for the first time since 1982. They played in the Waconia tournament Nov. 23-24 instead to open the season. They will be idle until they host Park Center on Jan. 4.
Rogers, meanwhile, is right back in action Thursday and Friday hosting their annual four-team Rogers Invitational. They face Anoka on Thursday, 7 p.m.
Elk River 58, Rogers 51
Rogers ……… 20 31 — 51
Elk River ……. 26 31 — 58
Rogers — Kirsten Heikkinen 5, Kelsey Frain 8 (2 stl), Taylor Anderson 16 (7 reb, 2 stl), Shelby Darr 4, Taylor Paulsrud 5, Courtney McClay 0 (3 reb), Marina Nowak 5 (5 reb), Lindsay Dorr 8 (10 reb, 5 blk) … Team: 12 FG (5 3pt), 22-28 FT, 27 rebounds, 12 fouls
Elk River —Erin Ness 4 (3 reb), Jordyn Sohns 4 (4 stl), Jayme Langbehn 2, Anna Rollag 2 (4 ast, 3 stl, 4 reb), Shelby Gracik 23 (3 ast, 3 stl), Molli Detloff 2 (5 reb, 2 stl), Abi Scheid 16 (14 reb), Brittany Cornelius 5 … Team: 20 FG (2 3pt), 16-24 FT, 32 rebounds, 20 fouls