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Eric Morken, Echo Press Alexandria's Jolynn Warnes drew three defenders before finding an open teammate during the championship game against Marshall last week. Warnes had 15 points to help lead the Cardinals to their sixth straight win to start the season.

Card girls' basketball: Defense brings crown

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Card girls' basketball: Defense brings crown
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

The Marshall girls' basketball team found out just how suffocating Alexandria's defense can be in a 70-55 loss in the championship game of the Cardinals' Holiday tournament last Thursday night.

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The Tigers jumped out to a 5-0 lead but could not overcome the 30 turnovers Alexandria forced in the game. The Cardinals swarmed the ball and quickly turned that early deficit into a 29-22 lead by the break.

Alexandria has made a habit of putting away teams early in the second half. The Cardinals did that again against the Tigers. Cara Wood jumped on a loose ball and found Lauren Trumm with a long outlet pass as she ran out on the break. Trumm gathered herself and put in the lay-up for a 46-31 lead with 12:31 left in the game.

Marshall could never recover from that. The Cardinals continued to pull away by getting easy opportunities off their defense. Almost all of their 41 second-half points were scored in the lane on fast breaks or dribble penetration in their half-court set. Marshall pulled within 15 by creating some turnovers in the final minutes but it was much too late as Alexandria defended its home court to take the tournament title.

"We feel awesome," Wood said after the game. "We knew they were going to come out with a lot of intensity, so we knew we had to match that. The game we watched yesterday (of Marshall), they just came out and killed it. So we knew we had to come out with a lot of intensity."

Both teams advanced to the title game with relatively easy wins the day before. Marshall took care of Moorhead 58-42, while Alexandria took down Robbinsdale Armstrong 51-42.

That set up what looked like a strong match-up on paper. The two teams came into the title game with just one loss between them. Marshall's only slip-up of the season came against a 9-0 Jackson County Central team on December 21.

Alexandria's athleticism and balanced scoring were just too much for the Tigers. The Cardinals put four players in double figures. Trumm finished with a game-high 20. Jolyn Warnes had 15, while Wood and Ali Haar added 10 and 12, respectively. Sam Trumm was right there with nine points. Both the Trumm sisters were named to the all-tournament team.

Lauren Trumm caused the Tiger defense fits with her ability to get to the basket. She took advantage of fast-break opportunities and found shots for herself and her teammates off penetration in the half court.

"That's just kind of my game," she said. "I like to drive more."

Marshall tried to give the Cardinals a taste of their own medicine in the opening minutes. The Tigers came out in a full-court press but found out quickly that utilizing a press against the Cardinals is easier said than done. Alexandria forced a lot of missed shots, which never allowed the Tigers to set up their pressure defense on a consistent basis. When they did, Wood and the rest of the Cardinal guards were able to get the ball up the court quickly and create easy scoring opportunities.

"That was important," Wood said. "We knew they were going to press and we were ready for it. We knew what to do because we were all organized, and that's what made it work."

Wood continued to do exactly what she is asked to do as the point guard of this team. The Cardinals' offense has not skipped a beat since she took over for the state's assist leader last year in Gracie Bruzek. Like Bruzek, Wood scores when the opportunity presents itself but is more concerned with getting the ball up the court quickly to open teammates in Alexandria's fast-paced system.

"I knew I was going to have to take this role," Wood said. "So last year, I just watched Gracie and tried to learn from her as much as I could. I talked to her in the off-season all the time. She gave me some pointers, and I knew I had some big shoes to fill, so I just tried to do my best."

So far, so good for a Cardinals team that looks better with every game. Alexandria entered the bulk of its conference schedule last night, Tuesday, against Willmar as one of just three teams still undefeated in conference play. There is a lot of season left, but a double-digit win over a one-loss Marshall team has only helped this team's confidence going forward.

"I think we're getting confidence," Trumm said. "But we're still not cocky about it. We're just really [level-headed]."

GAME STATISTICS

MARSHALL 22 33 - 55

ALEXANDRIA 29 41 - 70

ALEXANDRIA LEADERS - L. Trumm - 20 points; Warnes - 15 points; Haar - 12 points; Wood - 10 points; S. Trumm - 9 points; Whitney Gesell - 4 points

MARSHALL LEADERS - Becca Fedde - 2 points; Alyssa Netzke - 5 points; Kelsey Saugstad - 10 points; Kenzie Beekman - 5 points; Morgan McKittrick - 4 points; Alexis Boyd - 3 points; Hannah Bennett - 5 points; Kelly VanLeeuwe - 8 points; Jessica Baker - 2 points; Kalin Webskowski - 3 points; Sarah Anderson - 3 points; Amanda Tate - 5 points

ROBBINSDALE-ARMSTRONG - 51

ALEXANDRIA - 42

ALEXANDRIA LEADERS - S. Trumm - 18 points; L. Trumm - 17 points; Wood - 6 points; Haar - 4 points; Warnes - 4 points; Gesell - 2 points

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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