by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
There was no boomerang to bring down the Elk River girls in the section semifinals Saturday.
Facing a Rogers team they’d beaten in a close game 12 weeks ago, the Elks cruised this time 66-45 at St. Cloud State and advanced to the Section 8AAAA finals.
“The kids played really hard all 36 minutes and were very focused,” said coach Reed Caouette. “It was a great effort and a very exciting win for the kids.”
The Elks were led by Abi Scheid with 18 points and 16 rebounds, Shelby Gracik with 16 points, four steals and five assists, and Jordyn Sohns with nine points, nine rebounds and a solid ball-handling effort. Anna Rollag chipped in 12 points.
The Elks (16-12) will take on top-seeded St. Michael-Albertville (23-5) for the section crown and a trip to state on Friday, 6 p.m., at St. John’s University. The Knights beat St. Cloud Tech 65-44.
Rogers, which lost to the Elks 58-51 just before Christmas but went on to win 18 games and get voted a higher seed (second) than the Elks, seemed a good candidate for a payback win in the playoffs.
However, the Elks took a 6-4 lead on Gracik’s second 3-point shot, and never trailed again. Rogers had some surges but could not get untracked, and faded at the end. Nobody hit double digits with Taylor Anderson scoring nine points and Lindsay Dorr eight.
“Tonight we took care of the ball,” Caouette assessed. “We kept going inside to Abi, and eventually she got going … We shot well enough, in spurts. We broke them down defensively, and got the basket and to the line.”
Rogers coach Karlee Anderson said proceedings did not go as planned.
“Things were not going our way tonight. Fouls were not being called, our shots were not falling, and mainly, we did not step up defensively … They broke down our defense and they transitioned on us, and that is what we wanted to do to them.”
Both teams shot poorly from the field — the Elks 23-for-71 and the Royals 19-for-66 — but the Elks had the edge in rebounds 49-40 and turnovers 13-18, and made 13 steals, a few of which led to breakaway baskets. And after missing their first eight free shots, they finished 20-for-30. Gracik was 6-for-6 and Scheid 8-for-12 after missing her first four.
Massive turnovers have been the Elks main problem all year but the Elks are clearly improving in that regard, with three straight games now where they’ve handled the ball better.
“That is one thing we have been working on and working on, and now it’s showing,” said Sohns, who took the point most of the time and made just two turnovers. She had a lousy shooting game (3-for-16) but did everything else well, including seven offensive rebounds.
Gracik usually plays point, but the junior guard missed the section opener against Moorhead with the flu and was still not at full strength. Making her first two 3-pointers “really felt good, and helped me get going,” said Gracik.
Rogers finished the regular season strong, including two wins over Monticello, a section No. 1 seed, and a 52-51 loss to No. 8 ranked STMA. They had a shaky playoff opener, though, beating No. 7 seed Bemidji 53-45.
“We were 18 and ten. I am very proud of the girls,” said Anderson, first-year coach. “They can hold their heads up high. We had some tough losses and we had some close wins.”
The Elks tangled with STMA early in the season, losing 57-49 on Dec. 11 in Elk River.
“I am so excited to play them again, in the finals,” said Sohns.
This time it will be the Elks holding the boomerang.
Elk River 64, Rogers 45
Elk River …. 31 33 — 64
Rogers ……. 22 23 — 45
Elk River — Jordyn Sohns 9 (9 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl), Anna Rollag 12, Shelby Gracik 16 (5 ast, 4 stl), Molli Detloff 0, Abi Scheid 18 (16 reb, 2 stl), Erin Ness 0, Holly Skalsky 2, Jayme Langbehn 6 (5 reb, 2 ast), Brittani Cornelius 1 (3 reb) …. Team: 23-71 FG (2-10 3FG), 20-30 FT, 49 reb, 13 turnovers, 18 fouls
Rogers — Kirsten Heikkinen 5 (6 reb), Taylor Anderson 9 (6 reb), Taylor Paulsrud 4, Marina Nowak 5, Lindsay Dorr 8 (5 reb, 3 blk), Rachael Sharp 3, Kelsey Frain 2 (6 reb), Shelby Darr 0, Courtney McClay 6 (8 reb, 3 stl), Liz Glass 3, Megan Dobberstein 0 …. Team: 19-66 FG, 3-14 3FG, 10-22 FT, 40 rebounds, 18 turnovers, 24 fouls