by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River girls lost to St. Michael-Albertville in the section finals for the second straight year Friday evening, and the Knights have a dynasty going that could last a while longer.
The Knights nabbed their third straight Section 8AAAA title, sinking 35 of 45 free shots in scuttling the Elks 75-66 at St. John’s University. With 54 points of those points coming from a freshman and sophomore, they’ll be hard to dislodge in coming years, too.
Freshman guard Rae Johnson poured in 29 points, cashing 15 of 17 free throws. Sophomore guard Sydney Tracy delivered 25 points, including 16 of 20 free shots. Their lone senior starter and leader, forward Erin Autio, added 12 points.
Elk River sophomore center Abi Scheid kept the Elks in the game with 26 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, hitting 12 of 17 shots.
Shelby Gracik, senior guard, had a good career finale with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Freshman forward Sidney Wentland added 10 points.
The top-seeded Knights, who beat the Elks 68-59 in last year’s section final, and 54-44 earlier this season, take a 23-4 record into their third straight state tournament and fifth in six years.
The No. 3 seeded Elks finished 13-16, including a 57-40 upset of No. 2 St. Cloud Tech.
Turnovers were the Elks biggest problem as usual as STMA pressure shook loose 28 of them while the Knights had only nine. The minus 19 on turnovers negated a good shooting game and a 40-27 rebound edge by the Elks.
Fouls were the next-biggest problem as the Elks, usually a half-step behind the Knights, made 31 of them, with Molli Detloff and Gabi Haack fouling out, and STMA made them pay dearly at the free throw line.
The Elks had 15 turnovers by halftime but still led 36-35 with their best half of shooting all season, making 15 of 22 from the field, including four breakaways. They shot 9-for-27 in the second half and finished 25-for-49.
Elk River …… 36 30 — 66
STMA ……… 35 40 — 75
Elk River — Erin Ness 5, Anna Rollag 4 (4 ast), Gabi Haack 3 (4 ast), Sidney Wentland 6 (6 reb), Abi Scheid 26 (15 reb, 3 blk, 2 stl), Jayme Langbehn 3, Shelby Gracik 13 (4 ast), Ava Kramer 0, Molli Detloff 2 … Team: 25-49 FG, 5-18 3FG, 11-18 FT, 40 rebounds, 28 turnovers, 5 steals
STMA — Bobbi Brendefur 3 (3 stl), Rae Johnson 29, Jordyn Walker 6, Sydney Tracy 25 (4 stl), Erin Autio 12 (8 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl), Kitri Zezza 0, Lizzy Heil 0 … Team: 18-51 FG, 4-15 3FG, 35-45 FT, 27 rebounds, 9 turnovers, 12 steals