by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
It was just a third-place game in a holiday tournament but the Elk River Elks played with much resolve Saturday, like a team needing to prove something to themselves.
With Shelby Gracik delivering a long 3-point shot and a steal in the final minute, the Elks (4-5) pulled out a 51-49 win over the Edina Hornets (7-3) at the St. Michael-Albertville tournament.
“We were so down after last night’s game,” said Gracik, referring to a 54-44 loss to section rival STMA, “and we had to get back on track. We came together as a team today. Last night, we never played as a team.”
The Elks have lost several close games to strong rivals, unable to come up with the crucial plays like they did against Edina.
“I hope this one gets our kids to understand that we are a good team, too,” said coach Reed Caouette. “If we play together and work hard on both ends of the court, good things can happen.”
Gracik, senior guard, and Gabi Haack, freshman guard, each sank 13 points, each with three 3-pointers. Haack hit one to knot the score 47-47. Gracik let fly from 24 feet and it went right down the hatch for a 50-49 lead with 55 seconds left.
“That was supposed to be a pick-and-roll play,” said Gracik, “but she (her intended teammate) went under the screen, so I took the shot.”
Up by one, the Elks made Edina pass the ball around for 45 seconds (there was one time-out) until the Hornets lost control of the ball and Gracik pounced on it with 10 seconds left.
Edina sent Anna Rollag to the line with 7.5 seconds left and the sophomore made one, then missed. Edina rebounded and called time-out with 4.6 seconds left. The Hornets had to go the length of the court and were unable to get a shot off.
In that final minute, the Elks were mainly concerned with preventing Edina’s Jill Morton from getting the ball and an open look. The 5-9 junior guard scored 29 points, including two 3-pointers and 6-for-6 at the line, but didn’t get a chance for the game-winner.
“We knew Morton was good. We didn’t think she’d get THAT many points, though,” said Gracik.
“She is a great player, but I think we made her take some tough shots for her points,” said Caouette.
Edina was tough to score on inside, with a defense anchored by 6-4 freshman Bailey Helgren. Elk center Abi Scheid hit eight points. The Elks missed a stream of close-range shots.
Asked about the loss to STMA, the two-time defending section champ who beat the Elks in last year’s section finals, Caouette said it was one the Elks wanted badly.
“We missed too any bunnies and had a poor game at the line,” he assessed. “We didn’t have the energy we needed. St. Michael was very aggressive and physical, but we knew they would be.”
But he liked the way they came back the next day.
“I think the kids responded real well today, and did a lot of good things on offense and defense. We were able to hit a couple big shots down the stretch, and we made the defensive stops when we need them.”
The Elks will resume conference play Friday at Maple Grove. The Crimson (5-3) lost to STMA 52-36 in the title game Saturday evening.
Elk River scoring — Anna Rollag 1, Ava Kramer 5, Shelby Gracik 13, Gabi Haack 13, Abi Scheid 8, Molli Detloff 5, Sidney Wentland 6