Elkton-Lake Benton boys extend win streak to 6

LAKE BENTON – Prior to Thursday night’s game with the Arlington (S.D.) Cardinals, the Elkton-Lake Benton boys’ basketball team had compiled a 16-2 overall record and were in the midst of a five-game winning streak.

Behind a 25-point performance from senior forward Tyler Schindler and 41 team rebounds, the Elks stretched that win streak to six games and improved to 17-2 with a 60-53 victory.

Playing under South Dakota state rules in a Minnesota gym, the Elks took a while to find their stroke inside the unfamiliar confines of the Lake Benton public school. After taking a 9-3 lead midway through the opening quarter, the Elks watched the Arlington shooters heat up and use a 13-6 run to lead 16-15 after eight minutes.

Elkton-Lake Benton head coach Steve Erickson felt that the change of scenery for a home game had some impact on the Elks’ start.

“It’s different than our place,” Erickson said. “Our court is a little bit bigger than this, a little bit longer. We talked to the kids, it’s obviously a home game for us with our crowd, but it’s kind of an away game too because we don’t get to practice over here. But our kids were ready and they weren’t going to have any excuses.”

The Elks found their touch in the opening moments of the second quarter when Ethan Pearson knocked down a 3-pointer to give E-LB an 18-16 lead, a lead they would not relinquish over the remainder of the game.

Pearson’s 3 also kicked off a 10-2 run for the Elks, capped off by Nathan Krog’s bucket with three minutes, 34 seconds remaining until halftime, to give the Elks a 25-18 lead.

Arlington attempted to work its way back, but was unable to find any second chance shots on their few misses in the opening half. The Elks dominated the glass in the game, grabbing 41 rebounds as a team.

“It was huge for us, especially in the second half,” Erickson said of the rebounding advantage. “In the first half (Arlington) didn’t miss much, so there weren’t many boards to get. But that’s kind of what we talked about, making them work for shots and when they miss a shot we had to make sure we rebounded instead of giving them extra opportunities. I thought we did that for the most part.”

After hitting four 3s in the opening half, the Cardinals (12-4 overall) knocked down a pair of deep balls as part of an 8-2 run to start the third quarter. Tage Hargens nailed a 3 from the right wing with 4:45 to play in the quarter to tie the game at 36-36.

It would remain tied for another minute before Schindler scored on a putback to give the Elks the lead for good. The offensive rebound was one of 18 for the Elks, while the bucket counted for two of Schindler’s game-high 25 points.

“Tyler’s an outstanding player,” Erickson said of his 6-foot forward. “Looking at him, you’re not going to think he’s a huge scorer, a big post player, but the kid just works his tail off. He knows how to use his body. We’ve got kids on the floor that can shoot it and we like to play inside-out and when Tyler gets on a roll he’s tough to stop. As long as it’s working we’ll go with it.”

The Elks closed out the third quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 44-38 lead into the final eight minutes of play.

In the final quarter Elkton continued to pound the ball inside, while defensively they held the Cardinals to contested jumpshots. Arlington did not help itself out any, missing a handful of bunnies down the stretch. It was all part of the plan, according to Erickson.

“Our kids have bought in since day one on the defensive end of the floor and they, really, gave a great effort on that end of the floor,” Erickson said. “(Arlington) can put five kids on the floor that can shoot it and we just had to make sure that we contested, make them work for shots, and then down the stretch we were hoping to wear some legs down a little bit. I think we did that and they maybe missed some shots towards the end because of it.”

Cole VanBockern scored on a layup to cut the Elkton-Lake Benton led to 52-47 with 4:52 to play, but the Elks got the next six points as Schindler got a pair of buckets and Pearson converted both ends of a one-and-one. The Elks took their largest lead of the night at 58-47 with 1:42 remaining on Schindler’s second basket of the run.

Despite missing four free throws down the stretch, the Elks kept the Cardinals at bay and held on for the seven-point win. Elkton-Lake Benton used eight made free throws in the final minute to secure a 69-60 win over Arlington back on Jan. 19.

The Elks have just one game remaining before playoffs and will close out their regular season on Tuesday with a home game back in Elkton versus Great Plains Lutheran. A win would give the Elks a seven-game winning streak entering the playoffs, and hopefully secure a home game during districts.