In an intense game between two ISD 728 foes, it was the No. 5 team in Section 8-4A that advanced to the section championship game.
Elk River (18-1) defeated Rogers (10-10) 76-54 on Tuesday, March 23, at Elk River High School in the Section 8-4A semifinal. The Elks advanced to the section championship game for the first time in four years. Elk River last advanced to the Section 8-4A championship game when it won the program’s first Class 4A state title in 2016-17.
Elk River head coach Jeremy Digiovanni said the Elks played solid both offensively and defensively.
“We did a nice job,” Digiovanni said. “We were well prepared defensively. We did a nice job throughout most of the game of forcing them into second and third options on their offense. Overall, we did a good job taking away their transition game, limiting them to very few opportunities to get out and run their fast break. We did a good job rebounding. We out-rebounded them for the game. Those were some big keys for us on the defensive end.
“Offensively, we did a good job taking care of the ball. Our shot selection overall was good throughout the game. Any time that you can get a ton of points in the paint, that means you’re working to get the best shots available. I thought our girls did a good job with that.”
The Elks outscored the Royals 34-17 in the first half thanks to some clutch 3-pointers by senior guard Elly Bahr. Elk River outscored Rogers 42-37 in the second half. The Elks swept the season series from the Royals 3-0, outscoring the Royals 207-152.
The Royals finished 10-10 in head coach Patrick Bowlin’s first season with the program.
Offensive Player of the Game
Senior Elly Bahr led the Elks and all players with a season-high and career-high 21 points.
Digiovanni said Rogers’ zone defense allowed Bahr to thrive on Tuesday night.
“Any time a team comes out in zones, they’re going to tell you to knock down some shots from outside to get them out of it,” he said. “I thought that from Elly getting hot there in the first half and being able to work the ball inside occassionally getting some easy baskets that we, too, forced Rogers to make some adjustments and brought them out of their zone. That was something that helped us along in the second half as well.”
Defensive Player of the Game
Rogers senior forward Mackenzie Matthies led the Royals with three steals and one rebound.
Elk River will face St. Michael-Albertville in the Section 8-4A championship game on Friday, March 26, at 7 p.m. at Elk River High School. The winner will advance to the Class 4A state tournament as the Section 8-4A representative.
Digiovanni said the Knights will be a tough opponent.
“We know this is going to be a challenging game for us,” Digiovanni said. “We know St. Michael-Albertville well. We’ve got a history with them in probably the last 10 years of meeting. Usually during the regular season and then again in the postseason. They’re extremely athletic and quick. Their players do a good job of attacking the basket and hitting open shots. Coach [Kent] Hamre’s teams are always solid defensively. They’re going to make us work hard on the offensive end to get the shots we’re looking for. I expect that it will be an extremely competitive game. Both teams are playing well right now, and it should be a good championship game, which is what you would expect at this time of the year."