by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Games against high-profile opponent are not going to faze the Elk River girls basketball team this year, their coach pledges.
But the Elks didn’t quite get it done in the opener against Anoka, as the big, athletic, veteran Tornadoes held them off 81-74 at ERHS on Thursday evening.
“We know Anoka is good. Their starting five are all going to play college basketball,” said Reed Caouette. “But we want to get games like this, with the squad we have this year.”
The Elks, with two of their best athletes temporarily sidelined with ailments, gave it a good shot, led by center Abi Scheid with 21 points and guards Shelby Gracik and Ava Kramer with 13 each. Kramer, a swift 5-4 freshman, gave the Elks a big boost, scoring all 13 in the second half, in her varsity debut.
Missing the game were two other speedy players, senior starting forward and co-captain Molli Detloff with a leg problem, and soph forward Jaime Langbehn, a top sub last year, who recently had her tonsils taken out.
Anoka’s 6-1 guard Claire Lundberg hit 24 points to lead the victory, while 5-6 guard Samantha Brannen added 12, 6-0 guard Kyrah Fredenburg 11 and 6-0 forward Samantha Adamich 9.
Lundberg, Fredenburg and 6-2 center Jordan Meyer are returning starters from a 20-9 team that went to state last year (and split with the Elks in conference).
“We can’t be giving up 81 points, to anyone. We know that,” said Caouette. “And we won’t be giving up 81 points. We have some things we need to work on. We can’t send them to the line like we did.”
Anoka sank 17 of 21 free shots, all in the second half. The Elks were solid at the line, too, 20-for-27.
Scheid, 6-2 post who was team MVP on last year’s 16-13 team, was bottled up in the lanes by the big Anoka defenders, but popped in several 12- to 15-foot jumpers and even a 3-pointer, showing an element to her game that wasn’t there last year.
The Elks also got 9 points from sophomore Sidney Wentland and 8 each from Erin Ness and Gabi Haack. It was the varsity debuts for Wentland and Haack along with Kramer.
Kramer entered the game with the Elks down by six and quickly gave up a basket when she fell down backpedaling on defense, but scored five points in the next 15 seconds with a driving 3-point play, then a layup after a steal, helping the Elks knot the game 51-51. That was an eventful first half-minute of her varsity hoops career. She would notch four field goals, 5-of-7 free throws and two steals.
“She’s quick, and she’s ferocious,” said Caouette.
The Elks stuck with Anoka until the last 90 second when the Tornadoes pulled away, with the help of two straight inbounds passes over the defense for easy baskets. Fredenburg made both those long tosses that led her “receivers” perfectly.
The Elks will play at Blaine on Tuesday.
Elk scoring — Erin Ness 8, Anna Rollag 2, Shelby Gracik 13, Ava Kramer 13, Gabi Haack 8, Sidney Wentland 9, Abi Scheid 21