Four years ago, the Elk River girls basketball team was on top of the Class 4A basketball world, winning the program’s first state championship in 2016-17. The sports world and the world in general looks vastly different from the one the Elks traversed four years ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made its imprint on humanity.
Since winning the Class 4A state championship in 2016-17, the Elks haven’t won the Section 8-4A championship to advance to the state tournament in 2017-18, 2018-19, or 2019-20. In 2017-18, after finishing the regular season with a 10-16 record, Elk River lost to Maple Grove 41-33 in the Section 8-4A quaterfinal on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Maple Grove Senior High School. In 2018-19, the Elks finished the regular season with a record of 17-9, but once again, the Crimson eliminated them, this time in the section semifinals, winning 43-42 on on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at St. Cloud State University. In 2019-20, Maple Grove eliminated Elk River for the third consecutive season, winning the Section 8-4A semifinal 70-54 on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at St. Cloud High School.
Head coach: Jeremy Digiovanni
Key players returning in 2020-21: Guard Johanna Langbehn and forward Ellie Maass
Key departures: Guard Lydia Haack graduated. Haack scored more than 1,000 career points for the Elks and was a member of the 2016-17 Class 4A state tournament-winning team. She is playing for Upper Iowa University this season.
Key games: Season opener against Osseo on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at Elk River High School; home-and-home series against Rogers on Friday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. at Rogers High School and on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. at Elk River High School; senior day vs. Totino-Grace on Saturday, March 6, at 2 p.m. at Elk River High School; season finale vs. Maple Grove on Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at Maple Grove Senior High School
2019-20 regular-season record: 10-16
2020 Section 8-4A tournament record: 0-1 (lost 57-54 to Moorhead in the Section 8-4A quarterfinal on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 at Moorhead High School)
Head coach: Patrick Bowlin (first season, former coach of Totino-Grace girls program)
Key returning players for 2020-21: Returning for Rogers this season is junior guard Ellie Buzzelle, who led the Royals with 371 points in 26 games, averaging 14.3 points per game with 51 three-pointers. Also returning is sophomore guard Clara Glad, who scored 164 points in 26 games last season, averaging 6.3 points per game.
Key departures: Forward Alaina Brenning, who finished second on Rogers is scoring with 355 points in 26 games last season, averaging 13.7 per game with 39 three-pointers. In addition to Brenning, guard Ali Karels also graduated. Karels finished third on the Royals in points with 180 in 26 games last season, averaging 6.9 points per game.
Key games: vs. Champlin Park on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. at Champlin Park High School; vs. Elk River on Friday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. at Rogers High School and Monday, Jan. 25, at Elk River High School; senior night vs. Centennial on Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at Rogers High School
Last season, the Sting finished with a record of 19-7 and finished third in the Minnesota Athletic Association Conference standings with a conference record of 10-4. Spectrum lost 70-39 to Pierz in the Section 6-2A round of 16 on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, at Pierz High School.
Head coach: Cory Hund (sixth season)
Key games: Season opener against Eagle Ridge Academy on Friday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. at Eagle Ridge Academy; home opener vs. Eagle Ridge Academy on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 2 p.m. at Spectrum High School; senior night vs. Nova Classical Academy on Monday, March 8 at 6 p.m. at Spectrum High School; before regular season finale vs. Onamia on Friday, March 11, at 7:15 p.m. at Onamia High School
Key players returning in 2020-21: senior guards Adrienne Foell and Morgan Novotny, junior guard Carli Elrod
Key departures: All-time leading scorer Abby Thompson graduated. Thompson scored more than 1,000 career points for the Sting and now plays for Hamline University in St. Paul.
After a 14-11 improvement in 2019-20 after finishing 2018-19 with a 9-17 record, the Zimmerman girls basketball team looks to keep the momentum up in 2020-21. Zimmerman lost 69-53 to Willmar in the Section 5-3A quarterfinal on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 at Willmar High School.
Head coach: Jeff Downing returns for his second season this winter.
Key players returning for 2020-21: Sophomore forward Samantha Paulsen finished first in scoring in 2019-20 with 277 points in 24 games, averaging 11.5 points per game with 22 three-pointers. Senior forward Lydia Hagstrom finished second on the team in points with 272 points in 25 games, averaging 10.9 points per game with 10 three-pointers.
Key departures: Senior center Bailey Giffen scored 83 points in 24 games, averaging 3.5 points per game with 4 three-pointers.
Key games: Season opener at Little Falls on Monday, Jan. 18, at 7:15 p.m. at Little Falls High School; home opener vs. Foley on Friday, Jan. 29, at 7:15 p.m. at Zimmerman Middle and High School; senior night vs. Milaca on Thursday, March 11, at 7:15 p.m. at Zimmerman Middle and High School; regular-season finale at Mound Westonka on Saturday, March 13, at 2 p.m. at Mound Westonka High School