Shorthanded Cards come up short
The Alexandria girls’ basketball team already had a big challenge on its hands playing against top-ranked Fergus Falls in the 8AAA semifinals on Saturday night before another obstacle was thrown in their way leading up to the game.
The Cardinals had to play without the help of senior Amanda Christianson after the future St. Cloud State University guard was diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier in the week. Alexandria players say they were still confident coming into the game, but the Otters proved to be too much in a 66-47 win that ended the Cardinals’ season.
“We’ve played games without Amanda,” senior Sarah Bruzek said. “Games like this, it’s nice to have her. It’s nice to have her game. She’s an amazing player, but at the same time, the rest of us have to step in and fill her space.”
The Cardinals were forced to play from behind the whole night after falling behind 7-0. The Otters built a 16-point lead late, but Alexandria used a 6-0 run to end the half that was culminated by a three from senior guard Karly Betterman that made it a 28-18 game.
Fergus Falls made sure that momentum didn’t linger after the break. The Otters scored eight points within the first two minutes and turned that into an 11-0 run to build their lead to 21 points. They controlled things from there to punch their fourth straight trip to the section title game.
The Otters’ big three had their usual games. Anna Monke finished with 20 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three steals. That came after she finished just one block shy of a triple-double the last time these two teams met.
“She’s pretty tough,” Alexandria’s Amanda Gould said of the Otters’ senior center. “As long as we have that backside help, we’re good to go, but she’s got some great moves, and you have to give her that respect.”
Bailey Strand added 18 points, while Brianna Rasmusson was an assist short of a triple-double after finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, three blocks and two steals. Kristin Traiser made it four in double figures for the Otters with 10 points.
“We put our best defenders on the big three and that’s the best we can do,” Bruzek said. “We had the rest of them float around and try to stop the other two players, as well. It’s just that there are some good players on the Fergus team.”
The Otters pulled away by being aggressive, attacking the basket in the second half. They outscored the Cardinals 36-8 on points in the paint, with 26 of those coming after halftime.
“We really didn’t do well getting back on defense and we gave up easy buckets,” Bruzek said. “We didn’t give up any outside looks, which was our goal, but we didn’t tie it up in the middle, and that’s what we needed to do.”
Gould took Christianson’s spot in the starting lineup and scored 15 points in 19 minutes. Brooke Heggie also had 15 and Betterman had six points, eight rebounds and five assists. No other player had more than four points on a night when the Cardinals shot 38 percent from the field (18-of-47).
“Not really,” Gould said, when asked if she felt like she had to shoulder some of the scoring load with Christianson out. “We’re a team of no stars, so I figured we would all pick it up a little bit, and we would all come out and make some shots and come together to fill her role.”
Fergus Falls is a team that doesn’t hurt itself and makes teams pay for their mistakes. They did that on Saturday as the Otters committed just seven turnovers and forced Alexandria into 19. They turned those turnovers into 29 points.
The Otters are also led by a group of talented seniors that scored 64 of their team’s 66 points on Saturday night. They will take a 27-1 record into the 8AAA championship game, while Alexandria’s season ends with a 19-7 record overall.
“We were confident,” Gould said. “We knew [Christianson] was going to be on the bench talking it up and being there for us. We had some great practices to get squared away. It just didn’t come out our way this time.”
It marks the end of the careers for eight Alexandria seniors in Bruzek, Christianson, Betterman, Samantha Frederick, Alyssa Friederich, Jaylen Olson-Rodel, Gould and Emily Thul.
“[I’ll remember] having such amazing teammates all the way down to the little freshmen,” Bruzek said. “They bring so much to the court and have the biggest futures ahead of them. I can’t wait to come watch next year.”
ALEXANDRIA 18 29 – 47
FERGUS FALLS 28 38 – 66
TOTALS – Alexandria – FG – 18-47; Three-point FT – 3-15; FT – 8-12; Rebounds – 32; Assists – 11; Blocks – 4; Steals – 4; Turnovers – 19; Fergus Falls – FG – 23-50; Three-point FG – 3-9; FT – 17-24; Rebounds – 31; Assists – 13; Blocks – 7; Steals – 11; Turnovers – 7
ALEXANDRIA – Bruzek – 4 points, 1 steal, 6 rebounds; Gould – 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal; Heggie – 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal; Macy Hatlestad – 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block; Karly Betterman – 6 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal; Emily Thul – 2 points, 1 assist, 1 block; Kendall Kohler – 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists; Cheyenne Hendrickson – 1 rebound
FERGUS FALLS – Rasmusson – 13 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals; Monke – 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals; Traiser – 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist; Devonie Smith – 3 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals; Strand – 18 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals; Ashley Reinertson – 1 rebound; Kathryn Sawtell – 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals; Brooklyn Seland – 1 rebound