by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
You can say this about any basketball team, but when the Elk River girls are sinking three-point shots, the game is definitely easier and more fun.
The Elks hit their first four 3-pointers in the section opener against a Moorhead zone and had seven at halftime in building a 45-30 lead. They cooled in the second half but finished 9-for-20 in a 78-54 rout of the Spuds at St. Cloud Tech on Tuesday evening.
“We know we have good shooters, so when we get on fire, it’s pretty nice,” said Shelby Gracik, who was 3-for-7 from long range and totaled 18 points. “I always look forward to playing against a zone. Then I can shoot three’s and we have three other guards who can shoot them, and Abi, too.”
Abi Scheid, 6-foot-2 center, was 7-for-11 inside and led with 19 points and 10 rebounds. She’s hit a couple three’s this year but had none against Tech.
“I like when they are making three’s, because then I get a little more room,” said Scheid.
The No. 3 seeded Elks (12-15) advanced to the Section 8AAAA semifinals against No. 2 St. Cloud Tech (23-3) slated for Saturday at 6 p.m., at St. Michael-Albertville. In the second game, No. 1 St. Michael-Albertville (21-4) faces No. 5 Rogers (15-12).
“Two more games,” said Scheid, hopefully. Three wins gets you to state.
Gabi Haack sniped for 10 points (2-for-4 on three’s), Erin Ness eight points (2-for-2 on three’s) and Ava Kramer seven points (1-for-2 on three’s). Anna Rollag also made a 3-pointer. Molli Detloff added six points on three breakaways, and speared 10 rebounds.
For Moorhead, eighth-grader Sam Haiby led with 16 points and senior Kelli Tonn scored nine.
Elks coach Reed Caouette noted his team has several girls who can hit from outside the arc but none with a real good percentage for the year.
“We haven’t had too many games like this,” he said. “Maybe the game at Maple Grove (a 90-83 win).”
He added, “We shoot three’s much better when the ball goes inside and gets kicked back out, or when we make the extra pass to get the open three. We have been talking about that a lot lately. Kick it out and hit that three in rhythm … We were doing that tonight.”
Against an overmatched Moorhead team that finished 10-16, the Elks did a lot of things well, including overall shooting (31-for-64) and putting together nice breakaways. They raced to a 27-11 lead sinking four 3-pointers and four breaks.
The Elks were coming off two losses to highly-ranked teams to close the regular season — 78-56 to Hopkins, state champs the last three years, on Friday; and 80-74 to Centennial, champ of the Northwest Suburban Conference, on Saturday.
Caouette understated that those games were “real good tuneups” for the playoffs.
“I though we were well prepared tonight,” he said. “We worked hard at defense and did a good job on the boards and shared the ball really well, which is how we’ve been the entire season, hitting the open player. Obviously Abi is our big scorer but none of the kids really care who scores.”
In the other quarterfinals, St. Cloud Tech beat Brainerd 70-45, Rogers topped Buffalo 60-45 and defending champion St. Michael-Albertville ousted Bemidji 85-27.
Elk scoring — Becca Brummer 2, Erin Ness 8 (5 reb, 3 ast), Jayme Langbehn 3, Anna Rollag 3 (3 ast), Shelby Gracik 18 (6 ast), Ava Kramer 7, Gabi Haack 10 (5 ast, 3 stl), Molli Detloff 6 (10 reb), Sidney Wentland 2 (5 reb, 2 stl), Abi Scheid 19 (10 reb, 3 ast)