The defending section champion St. Michael-Albertville Knights showed Elk River that they are still in charge by shutting down the Elks 54-44 in the first round of their holiday tournament Friday evening.
The Knights lost more by graduation than the Elk River team they beat 68-59 in last year’s Section 8AAAA final, but remain a much smoother operation than the Elks and out-hustled them, too.
Erin Autio, Bobbi Brendefur, and Kitri Zezza scored 11 points each and Rae Johnson 10 for the Knights, who made 15 of 24 free shots and three 3-pointers.
The Elks (3-5) hit six 3-point shots but never could get an inside game going. Abi Scheid, 6-2 center averaging 17 points, was limited to seven as she had early foul trouble and shot just 2-for-8 with the Knights all over her. The Elks missed about a dozen close-range shots in the game.
Elk River also struggled at the free throw line, 10-for-20, and continues to be bogged down by turnovers, with 30 of them, mostly on bad passes, to the Knights’ 16.
Shelby Gracik sank four 3-pointers and led the Elks with 14 points. Gabi Haack netted two treys and 11 points.
The Elks had a great start, leading 15-6 with three 3-pointers already, but they fell behind 32-26 by halftime, averaging more than a turnover per minute with 20 in the first half. Down 43-30, the Elks made a 10-0 run to pull within 43-40 before STMA pulled away again.
The Knights have won the last two section titles and five of the last eight. This year, they are 4-2, with losses to Fergus Falls (7-0) by 72-51 and Minnetonka (7-1) by 63-55.
The Elks will duel Edina (7-2) in the third-place game at 5 p.m. Saturday while STMA meets Maple Grove for first place.
Elk River — Anna Rollag 2, Shelby Gracik 14, Gabi Haack 11, Ava Kramer 5, Sidney Wentland 5, Abi Scheid 7