TRAVERSE CITY — Elk Rapids won its first game on Traverse City St. Francis’ floor in Luke Johnson’s tenure, knocking off the Gladiators 61-47 Friday.
The win was the Elks’ first over the Glads since the 2011 district title game in Glen Lake.
“This is the first time we’ve won in this building in a long time,” the sixth-year coach said. “It’s a good road win for us. It’s a tough place for the kids to play.”
With a four-point lead early in the third quarter, Elk Rapids (7-2, 4-1) went on an 11-0 run fueled by big men Cole Walker and Adam Trautman, who combined for 10 of the 11.
“In my opinion, those are two of the most skilled big men in all of northern Michigan,” Johnson said. “And we’re going to keep feeding it to them.”
Walker ended the game with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Trautman had six points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
St. Francis (1-5, 0-4) wouldn’t get any closer than seven points in the final stanza, despite the Elks hitting only eight of 20 free throws.
“We slowed it down to our pace,” Johnson said. “We made them defend in the half-court set. And our kids just executed.”
Nikola Dimitrov had 17 points, four steals and four rebounds and Shae Somers added 16 points and six assists.
“The defended us well and made it really tough for us to get any shots,” St. Francis coach Keith Haske said. “I thought they did a real good job on Byron (Bullough). Byron had 37 (last) Friday night, and I thought they did a good job making him really work for every shot that he got. They hit some key threes.”
Dylan Sheehy had 15 points and four steals for the Gladiators, while Bullough had 14 points and five rebounds and Noah Phillips scored 11.
The Glads started the second quarter with an 8-0 run to pull ahead 20-13. The Elks countered with a 12-2 spurt to take the lead back at 25-22 and wouldn’t trail again. Dimitrov scored seven of the Elks’ dozen in that run.
“Right now we have real trouble sustaining that effort,” Haske said. “If we do a lot of things right and miss a lay-up, it gets a little defeating after a little bit. We’ve just got to do a better job finishing.
“I think we will. We’re still growing as a team.”
And they’ll grow a lot when 6-foot-8 post player Tanner Kenny is eligible on Monday.
But Kenny hasn’t practiced in three week due to a shoulder injury. He was a minimal participant in Friday’s warm-ups in street clothes.
“It’s a matter of when he heals,” Haske said. “Then he’ll play.”
“Tanner is a very skilled kid,” Johnson said. “He used to be an Elk Rapids kid and his dad taught at Elk Rapids. They’ll be a different team when they have him back.”