by Eric Oslund
The Elk River girls basketball team’s semifinal game against Lakeville North on Thursday, March 16, will likely be one that is looked at for a number of years. The Elks were able to come out with a 57-56 victory to advance to the state finals, but it was not without a fair amount of controversy.
The Elks took the one-point lead when Ava Kramer hit a layup with 56 seconds remaining. Gabi Haack was then able to draw a charge on the defensive end with 41 seconds remaining in the game and it looked as though the girls would be able to run out the clock to close out that game, but that would be too easy.
Lakeville North was able to force a turnover with 19 seconds remaining, which meant they would get another chance to steal the win from the Elks. They missed a layup with five seconds left on the clock, but got the rebound and quickly got a shot off.
The attempt went in, which would have given them a one-point lead with four seconds remaining, but Lakeville’s head coach Shelly Clemons was calling for a timeout before her player got the shot off.
“Clock was going down quick and we kind of seemed like we weren’t sure what we were in,” she explained. “All season long, I’ve pretty much let these girls play through stuff. I’ve been very hesitant to call timeouts. Clock was winding down and I saw it get down to four, so I figured we better draw something up.”
While she was calling for the timeout the moment her player gained control of the rebound, the referee didn’t signal for it right away. It was very close between when they officially blew the clock dead and the player shot the ball, and a majority of the Lakeville faithful believed that the shot got off before the whistle was blown.
And you could really hear the boo birds come out when the replay went put up on the jumbotron. But even then it wasn’t clear, as the ref who blew the play dead was not on the screen and you couldn’t hear any sound. All you could see was the ref calling a timeout when her player go the ball and then the ref come running into view waiving his arms after the shot left the player’s hands.
“I think, technically, the shot actually got off before the ref signaled the timeout,” Clemons said. “Probably the wrong call on my part, but at the same time I wanted to make sure my team had a chance.”
Whether the Lakeville player got her shot off before the whistle was blown or not, they had another chance to win the game. They inbounded the ball with four seconds remaining in the game and got it into the hands of Temi Carda, a senior leader on their team and one of their leading scorers.
She went up for the game winner, but Elk River senior Kelsie Cox was able to get over and block the shot, knocking it out of bounds. There was once again a lot of controversy surrounding the play, though, as many on the Lakeville side believed Cox had fouled Carda on the shot.
Referees tend to not make calls late in game, especially on a close play, because they do not want to be the reason a team wins or loses a game. The Lakeville head coach understands that approach, but thinks there are still times a call needs to be made.
“I agree to that, I understand that point of view, but at the same time, when everything is on the line and you’ve got three seniors who, this is their season and this is everything to them, and you find a way to get one of your biggest scorers the ball and she goes up, if it’s clearly a foul it needs to be called,” Clemons explained. “And I think that was, and it wasn’t called.”
The problem is that it was not clearly a foul. Cox made contact with the ball and knocked it out of bounds, then her momentum carried her into the shooter after the ball left her hands and the two hit the ground. It was a close call that could have easily gone either way, and this time the call favored the Elks.
“It was Elk River’s time,” Clemons said. “I think the game was meant for them.”
The Elks have had a historic season, carrying their undefeated season into the state championship game, and anytime a team goes on a run like the one these girls have been on, there will be times they need a little help.
“To have a season like we’ve had, you have to have things go your way,” Elk River head coach Jeremy Digiovanni said. “You have to have the right bounces, you have to have a little luck. You have to have players make plays. We were fortunate enough to make just a couple more than they did a t the end. To say it’s our year or not, that’s up for us to try and determine on Saturday now.”
One way or another, the Elks’ season will come to an end on Saturday, March 16, in the state finals. They will go up against an undefeated Hopkins team at 8 p.m. in Williams Arena. That is when everyone will truly find out if this season belongs to the Elks or not.