By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
In what easily could have been labeled a rebuilding season, the Rogers girls’ basketball team came into the year with a rookie head coach that relied heavily on a talented group of sophomores.
After struggling out of the gate, going 5-5 to start the season, first-year head coach Karlee Anderson turned the Royals season into a success. A year removed from a 12-16 finish, Anderson’s Royals finished the year with 18 wins and ended up one win shy from the section championship finals.
A 64-45 defeat on March 2 in the Section 8, 4-A semifinals against Elk River at Halenbeck Hall ended the Royals season. But for Anderson, the season was still a successful one.
“I think it was a success,” Anderson said. “We went 18 and 10 and got to the second round of the playoffs.”
The Royals had seven seniors on this year’s roster, but the team often went with three sophomores and a junior in their starting lineup. Meanwhile, Elk River – coming off a 7-20 season a year ago – also went to its youth. Freshman Abi Scheid and sophomore Anna Rollig have been big contributors and Saturday’s showdown with the Royals proved just that.
With Royal sophomore’s Taylor Anderson, Taylor Paulsrud and Marina Nowak being held in check, Elk River built a 31-22 lead at the half thanks in part to Scheid’s inside dominance. The 6-foot-2 freshman post had eight points and 11 rebounds in the first half.
“We’ve been going to her inside all year,” said Elk River head coach Reed Caouette. “That was the game plan, work the ball inside. We didn’t shoot great, but our defensive intensity kept Rogers off balance.”
Scheid created matchup problems, as the undersized Royals had trouble finding the right mix to defend and attack Elk River’s leading scorer.
“We knew she would be tough against us. She’s a tough girl,” Anderson said. “We needed some girls to step up offensively and convert on their turnovers. We had some step up, but not enough.”
Elk River controlled the tempo pretty much from start to finish. Rogers never could cut the deficit into single digits and with the score 61-45 in the closing minutes, Anderson put five seniors on the floor to finish the game.
Senior forward Court McClay finished with six points and eight rebounds and she and Kirsten Heikkinen will be the two biggest losses next year. Also graduating are Kelsey Frain, Liz Glass, Rachael Sharp, Megan Dobberstein and Shelby Darr.
On the bright side, four of the five starters, including Paulsrud, Anderson, Nowak and junior Lindsay Dorr all return.
Dorr’s average of 10 points and 8.6 rebounds were both team leading. Paulsrud’s 8.9 scoring average and Anderson’s 8.8 will create a solid 1-2-3 punch. Nowak also scored 6.1 points per game.
“I’m proud of these girls and everything they accomplished this year,” Anderson said.