by Eric Oslund
The Elk River boys basketball team headed up to St. Cloud State University to play in the semifinal round of their section tournament on Saturday, March11. They were set to take on Maple Grove, an opponent they knew very well as the two teams had just met on March 1.
The Elks knew that this would be a tough game, and they would have to play as close to flawless as they could if they hoped to come out on top. Things were going good for them to start, as they found themselves leading 15-12 seven minutes into the game, but then Maple Grove started heating up, while the Elks started to cool off.
Maple Grove took their first lead of the game, 17-15, with 9:57 remaining in the first half, and found themselves ahead 37-30 by the time the two teams made their way to the locker rooms at halftime.
“I give them credit. I thought Maple Grove played a good game against us,” Elk River’s head coach Randy Klasen said. “Our kids battled hard, did what we wanted to do, but had a few too many empty possessions where we had some bad turnovers and missed some shots. When you’re playing a team that good, you’ve almost got to play, I can’t say flawless because nobody does that, but you’ve got to play at a really, really high level.”
Credit the Elks, though, they did not roll over and give up. They came out to start the second half and battled, making it a four-point game and then held on to that margin until about 13 minutes remained in the game – matching Maple Grove shot for shot, and rebound for rebound. But then their opponents would go on a 17-6 run over the next eight minutes, which was a deficit the Elks were never really able to overcome.
Maple Grove would go on to win the game 71-59, and were led by their two stars – Brad Davison and Tywhon Pickford – who finished the day with 26 and 28 points, respectfully.
“It was hard to contain them,” Klasen said of those two players. “That’s what we were trying to do, but when Brad Davison is 6-for-6 on his threes and Pickford’s getting offensive rebounds and put backs, they’re just a handful.”
That loss officially brought the 2016-17 season to an end for the boys, a season that was interesting to say the least. First, they had a number of their players miss the start of the season, since they were all apart of the football team that won the state tournament – so the seasons overlapped a little as far as practices go.
Then they had to deal with a number of injuries and illnesses, but the players persevered and continued to battle on. And a big part of that was because of the seniors that were on this team, nine of them to be exact – Wyatt Morrell, Blake Hills, Noah Weege, Joseph Halverson, Cameron Cotton, Jacob Heyne, Evan Huntley, Tyler Billman and Nick Anderson.
Klasen knows this group of players will be hard to replace, but hopes the up and coming players will be able to look at the way the prepared and played, and be able to emulate it.
“If I had to describe them with one word I’d say character,” the head coach said of his departing seniors. “They’re just quality, quality kids. We talk everyday about how we control attitude and effort, and they come with great attitudes and tremendous efforts. I think if you watch our team a couple times you see they work really hard. They leave it all on the floor, so that’s what will really be missed with this group graduating.”