by Eric Oslund
The Elk River girls basketball team went into their semifinal matchup against Lakeville North full of confidence. After all, these two teams met earlier in the season and the Elks were able to come away with a 61-47 win.
Granted, the game took place back on Dec. 3 and it was the Elks’ first game of the season, but things seemed to be trending in that direction again early. The Elks held a 23-11 lead with a little eight minutes to go in the first half, but then things started to go south. Lakeville North called a timeout to take a breather and regather themselves, and looked like a new team when play resumed.
They would go on a 14-1 run, which included a three pointer in the final seconds of the half, to give them a 25-24 lead at halftime.
For the second game in a row, the Elks had lost a size-able first half lead and found themselves trailing by one point during the intermission after their opponents knocked down a shot from beyond the arc as time was expiring.
But the Elks were able to come out in the second half and jump out to a 27-25 lead off a three pointer from Gabi Haack. Things would not stay that way for long, though, as Lakeville North was able to tie it up, and then take a 29-27 lead two minutes later.
Elk River would actually retake the lead with 14:44 remaining in the game when Haack was able to fight through traffic and get a basket. She was also fouled on the play, and that one extra free throw was all she needed to put her team up 32-31. The girls would increase their lead to four points, but their offense would suddenly go cold, much like it did in the first half.
Lakeville North went on a 12-1 run and suddenly found themselves up 43-36 with 10:25 remaining in the game. The Elks were getting backed into a corner, but they weren’t ready to give up. They are led by a group of seniors who have had to fight their way back into games multiple times before, this was nothing new to them.
They battled back for the next four minutes, but weren’t able to gain any ground. And that’s when the senior leadership began to kick in.
Sidney Wentland drove to the basket and found the bottom of the net to make it 50-45, in Lakeville’s favor, with 6:25 remaining. Lakeville would respond, but then Danielle Lachmiller hit a three to make the score 52-48. It was then Kelsie Cox’s turn as she drove to the basket, scored, was fouled and knocked down her free throw. Suddenly it was a 52-51 game and you could feel the momentum switching back in the Elks favor.
Lakeville North was able to go down and get another basket after Cox’s free throw, but Ava Kramer responded, knocking down a free throw of her own. The Elks trailed 54-52 with 3:00 remaining in the game.
That’s when Haack stepped up once again for her team. She drove to the basket, found the bottom of the net and was fouled. The Metro Player of the Year stepped to the line with a chance to give her team the lead for the first time in 11 minutes. Nothing but net. The Elks took a 55-54 lead with 2:09 remaining in the game.
But Lakeville had some players on their team that weren’t ready to give up, and they were able to take a 56-55 lead with 1:30 remaining in the game.
The Elks inbounded the ball and got it in the hands of Kramer. She took off towards the basket, ran under it, twisted her body around, put the ball in the air and gave her team a 57-56 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the game.
It appeared as though this would be the final possession of the game, but Haack was able to draw the charge, giving the Elks the ball back with 41.3 seconds remaining. The Elks took it down the court and were looking to kill off the remaining time, but Lakeville North was able to force a turnover and go back on offense with 20 seconds remaining.
Lakeville North missed on a layup attempt, and the Elks couldn’t recover. There was a scramble for the ball and Lakeville came up with it. Their player launched a shot towards the basket and found the bottom of the net to give them a 58-57 lead over the Elks with just under four seconds remaining in the game. But the shot didn’t count.
Lakeville’s head coach called a timeout just before her player go the shot off, which meant the Elks clung on to their 57-56 lead.
Both teams huddled during the timeout, drawing up their play, and then they broke. Lakeville got the ball in the hands of one of their shooters, who went up for the shot, but Cox was able to block it and knock the ball out of bounds. 2.4 seconds remained in the game.
Lakeville was once again inbounding the ball and they were able to find a player underneath the basket, but they couldn’t get the ball over the rim. The clock would run out as both teams battled for the loose ball, securing the 57-56 win for the Elks.
Up next, they will take on Hopkins in the state finals on Saturday, March 18, at 8 p.m. in Williams Arena. It will be the first time in Class AAAA girls basketball history that two undefeated teams battle for the state title.
Box score vs. Lakeville North:
Ava Kramer – 10 points, two rebounds, three assists
Kelsie Cox – 8 points, four rebounds
Sidney Wentland – 10 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists
Danielle Lachmiller – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Gabi Haack – 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Lydia Haack – 1 points, 1 rebound