Thriller sets up semis with Fergus
The Alexandria girls’ basketball team was going to savor an emotional win over Detroit Lakes on Tuesday night before shifting focus toward another playoff battle with Fergus Falls on Saturday.
The Cardinals owed that to themselves after a wild second half left them with a 51-46, overtime win in the Section 8AAA quarterfinals that seemed unlikely at times in the waning moments. Karly Betterman had just two points at the end of regulation, but they proved to be the two most important points of the game.
Without them, Alexandria would have seen its season end in heartbreak. Instead, the Cardinals will play at St. Cloud State University tomorrow after Betterman’s rebound and putback at the buzzer forced overtime.
“I couldn’t even believe it,” Betterman said. “I didn’t want the game to be over. I didn’t want my season or career to be over. It was just crazy. I’m still in shock.”
The Cardinals trailed by two after Detroit Lakes made one of two free throws heading into that final possession. Freshman guard Kendall Kohler came around a screen and found herself open at the top of the key. She released a three that barely caught iron and fell right into the arms of Betterman under the basket.
The senior point guard knew exactly what to do with it. She quickly put the ball up off the glass and in. Betterman looked up at the scoreboard once the clock hit zero and broke into tears as her teammates hugged her.
Betterman was able to harness those emotions in the extra session. She added five more points in overtime, including a driving layup that gave her team a 46-45 lead. The Cardinals never trailed again after that as Betterman and Amanda Christianson combined for five free throws to put the game away down the stretch.
“Betty has just grown so much over the course of her career,” head coach Wendy Kohler said. “She has invested so much emotionally and the energy that she expends. I knew we could get her to calm down. I just told her, ‘Collect yourself, compose yourself.’ ”
The Cardinals felt the game was theirs for the taking after things went into overtime. The Lakers scored the first two points of the extra session, but freshman guard Macy Hatlestad answered with a layup and a free throw to keep things close before Betterman and Christianson closed things out from the line.
It looked like Alexandria might open the game up a little bit early in the second half. The Cardinals led by eight at the break and 12 in the opening minute after halftime when junior center Brooke Heggie hit back-to-back buckets inside.
Detroit Lakes wouldn’t quit, though. The Lakers chipped away at that deficit and took their first lead of the game at 34-33 after a Kyra Vagle layup with 3:35 left. They led by three with 32 seconds left, but a late runner from Christianson helped get the Cardinals in position for a chance to tie it in the end.
Detroit Lakes presents matchup problems inside against a lot of teams with four players on the roster at 6’0” or taller. Heggie is listed at 6’2” but battled foul trouble in the second half after going to the bench with four with almost nine minutes left in regulation. She still finished with a team-high 14 points.
“Brooke played huge for us tonight,” Kohler said. “She was aggressive, but the minutes we got out of Amanda Gould and Cheyenne Hendrickson were huge in the post. They really gave us a physical presence and helped absorb a lot of that physical banging in the post that Brooke has been taking.”
The Cardinals had a little more depth than the Lakers. Alexandria had five players finish with at least seven points as Christianson added 11 and freshmen guards Hatlestad and Kohler had 10 and seven, respectively.
“Kendall and I have just accepted our roles on the team,” Hatlestad said. “We know what we have to do to help the team win. We’re going to contribute however we can to help the team succeed.”
“THEY’RE NOT AFRAID OF FERGUS”
The Cardinals know they need contributions from up and down the lineup like that in order to beat top-seeded Fergus Falls on Saturday.
The Otters have two wins during the regular season against Alexandria, but the Cardinals were encouraged about the way they played in a 63-52 loss at home on February 24.
“They’re not afraid of Fergus, and I think that’s key,” Wendy Kohler said. “Fergus knows we’re here, and we’re just going to have to go out and grind it out. They’re a terrific team. They’ve been ranked number one for most of the season up until last week here, and we know they present some tough matchup problems for us. We’re just ready for the challenge.”
Betterman and Hatlestad both hesitated when asked about playing as the underdogs. They know the seeds say they are, but they are confident in their ability to play with a 26-1 Otters team.
“We just know we have to give it our all,” Hatlestad said. “That’s what it’s going to take. People are going to think of us as the underdog because we’re the lower seed, but we’re just as good as them.”
The Cardinals wanted a third chance this season to prove that, and they will get it at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
“This group is not afraid, but they know that they have a tough task at hand,” Kohler said. “They’ll be focused, and they give Fergus a tremendous amount of respect. Great team, great coaching and we’ll be ready to go.”