by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River seniors made their final home game a good experience as the Elks cruised past St. Cloud Tech 60-41 on Wednesday evening to start their bid for the state tournament.
Porter Morrell potted 24 points and Clay Elrod 18 as the Elks shook off the Tigers, whose standout junior guard Andy Foley scored 21 points and kept them in the game for a while.
“We won most of the time here this year and it was nice to play at home in our first section game,” said senior guard Terry Hadden. “Winning your last home game, that’s memorable.”
It was the home finale for Morrell, Hadden, Bryan Edwards, Isaac Howard, Max Person and Jordan Meyer.
The No. 2 seeded Elks finished 13-2 at home and will take a 19-8 mark into Section 8AAAA semifinals Saturday against No. 3 Moorhead (17-8) at St. Cloud State in the late game Saturday evening.
Playoff time is exciting. Hadden, Edwards, Elrod and Meyer were involved in the football team’s first section championship since 1992 and hope to help capture the first section basketball title since 2006.
“It’s going to be just as fun again. We’ve got a good group of guys again, just not as many as in football,” said Hadden. “We’re very excited to get to play on a college court.”
Top-seeded Brainerd (26-1) will duel No. 4 Buffalo (20-7) at 6 p.m. Saturday at SCSU, followed by the Elks vs. Moorhead.
Moorhead scuttled Rogers 72-66, Brainerd topped Bemidji 83-49 and Buffalo ousted St. Michael-Albertville 45-39 in the other quarterfinals.
Elrod got the Elks a quick 11-6 lead by sinking his first three shots, all from outside the 3-point arc. Still, Tech loomed within 28-20 at halftime and 32-28 about seven minutes into the second half, mainly due to the lanky, limber Foley, who’s adept with either hand and finishes nicely at the rim. Soph forward Jake Martig added 12 for the Tigers (8-19).
But the Elks pulled away as Morrell heated up and sank three 3-point shots along with 6-for-6 at the line. The Elks finished 14-for-15 on free shots with Elrod 5-for-5. Morrell’s 24 put his career total at 961.
“Like I told the kids, it was a typical first-round playoff game,” said coach Randy Klasen. “The first half, you are kind of feeling your way, struggling to score and we don’t see that zone a lot. And we only had Bryan four minutes the whole first half (with foul trouble) so we lose our inside threat. I thought we defended well. The Foley kid is tough.”
The Elks’ next foe, Moorhead, is the only team that’s beaten No. 8 ranked Brainerd. The Spuds pulled off a 95-93 upset on Feb. 1 with their 6-foot-5 forward Aaron Lehn pouring in a school-record 53 points. Brainerd won the rematch 66-59. Lehn had 30 in the Spuds’ win over Rogers on Wednesday.
“They are a very good team, with a lot of length, a couple six-five type kids,” said Klasen about Moorhead. “We will have to play well to beat them.”