by Jared Hines
As fans arrived for the annual River Battle between Elk River and Rogers, a familiar face was sitting in the front row supporting the junior varsity Elks basketball team before the varsity team stepped onto the court.
Fae Jacobs — just eight days away from age 90 — sat in her regular spot, with her Elk River sweatshirt and proudly displaying her No. 1 fan badge.
The Elks girls basketball team beat the Royals in the first game of the River Battle doubleheader on Thursday night by a score of 69-51. The Elks girls have beat the Royals in every River Battle game since 2009, but that wasn’t the story of the night.
The night was all about Fae.
“With alumni night, with Fae’s birthday, and then of course with the River Battle, there were a lot of things that had the girls motivated to play,” Elks head coach Jeremy Digiovanni said.
The Elks jumped off to a 16-0 lead in Thursday night’s victory, not allowing the Royals to score a basket until almost eight minutes into the first half. After Royals guard Allison Dahlgren finally put points on the board for Rogers to make it 16-2, the two teams played more evenly the rest of the half. Greg Amundson — coaching in his first game for the Royals — subbed in players frequently, allowing for some transition baskets that cut into the Elks’ lead. At halftime, the Elks led by a 31-20 score.
That’s when the festivities started at Elk River High School.
After a brief introduction of Elks girls alumni, the microphone was handed over to former Elk River Activities Director John Barth, who then called Jacobs to stand up and be honored in front of the Elk River crowd.
“It’s unbelievable,” Digiovanni said. “The community gets behind all of our sports very well. That’s something that is unique in a bigger school like Elk River.”
Jacobs and her two friends Gwen and Loretta (who have since passed away) have supported Elks athletics for decades, coming to football games for dozens of years but sticking loyal to softball and girls basketball. At basketball games, the trio used to have three swivel chairs in the front row of the bleachers where they would arrive with their score books. The threesome would also buy team dinners after wins for the girls.
Fae’s birthday was on Dec. 30, when she turned 90 years old. Barth spoke about her character and her commitment to the girls basketball program before handing the microphone over to Elk River Mayor John Dietz. Dietz continued the tribute to Jacobs, declaring her 90th birthday on Dec. 30 as Fae Jacobs Day. Finishing off the halftime celebration was Stacey Sheetz, the Elks softball coach, who surprised Jacobs with balloons and 90 flowers.
“The girls appreciate all the support from Fae and the whole community,” Digiovanni said. “I think it gives them a big advantage when we play here at home.”
Throughout the night, Jacobs smiled as the crowd sang her “Happy Birthday” and cheered as she was honored. She doesn’t like being the center of attention, even staying anonymous as she and her friends donated scholarships to senior female athletes throughout the years. She hugged friends and family for a while longer, but seemed the happiest when the second half started and she got to the watch the Elks step back on the court.
“I just love to watch these girls,” Jacobs said when interviewed by Fox 9’s Courtney Godfrey.
The Royals tried to make it close in the second half but could never cut the lead below double digits. The scoreboard read 69-51 when the clock hit zero and the Elks went over to the hoist the trophy, knowing it would stay on the north side of the river for at least one more year.
Gabi Haack led the Elks in scoring with 21 points while senior guard Ava Kramer contributed 17 points in the win. The Elks moved to 7-0 on the season, but Digiovanni knows his team can continue to improve as the season progresses.
“We have to play at a high level most consistently,” he said after the game. “We know that we are going to see teams like Rogers here later in the season. They are in our section, and in order to get to the goals we set for the postseason, we have to put together complete games where we are focused, intense and energetic for 36 minutes.”