Section 8AAA girls' basketball: Cardinals move on to semifinalsAlexandria defeated Little Falls 64-21, will face Thief River Falls Saturday.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
There was no letdown as the Alexandria girls’ basketball team went into the Section 8AAA opener as heavy favorites against Little Falls on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals never let the Flyers believe they had a chance, building a 20-2 lead almost eight minutes into the game. They never looked back on their way to a 64-21 win, setting up a game against a 25-2 Thief River Falls team in the section semifinals Saturday.
“We just knew that we had to get after them and play our game, run the ball,” senior center Kalli Bowser said after scoring 10 points against Little Falls. “We work on our conditioning a lot, so we just had to get up and down and run them into the ground.”
That’s exactly what Alexandria did. The Cardinals used their patented pressure defense to force turnover after turnover throughout the night. The Flyers didn’t have a field goal through the first 11 minutes before freshman Melanie Dorn finally hit a three.
Meanwhile, Alexandria’s Amanda Christianson got into a groove that didn’t stop until she had 27 points before leaving midway through the second half. The junior guard did a little bit of everything, hitting three triples, six free throws and knifing her way into the lane to create easy buckets for her and her teammates.
“I was feeling really good,” Christianson said. “I just knew I wanted to play another game this season, so I was trying to come out with a lot of confidence and energy. My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball, so I have to give all the credit to them.”
That drive to play another day will fuel this team as it heads to Moorhead Saturday to face Thief River Falls. The Prowlers have won 17 of their last 18 games, taking care of Detroit Lakes 38-26 in the section opener on Tuesday night.
Alexandria will come in equally as hot, having won nine of its last 10. The Cardinals’ only loss during that stretch came by two points against Bemidji on February 9. The Prowlers’ only loss in 2013 came in a 14-point game against undefeated Fergus Falls on that same night.
“Thief River will be prepared,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. “Jeff Loe is a good coach. They’ve got weapons and our kids will understand the game plan and who their weapons are. Then it’s just get out and get the job done. Nobody expected this crew to do what they’ve done this year. They’ve created something special and have a chance to be a part of a lot more special things this season.”
The Cardinals dominated the game when these two teams met in the 8AAA semifinals last year. Alexandria won 69-46 with a different roster than the one now. The Prowlers, meanwhile, bring back a similar group to the one of last season.
“They have a tremendous player in Brooke Yaggie, the shooter in Brooke,” Kohler said. “[Brooke] Anderson is another shooter. Then they have the freshman, [Meleah] Biermaier, on top of that 1-3-1. They’re very athletic, they’re long, they’re lanky. They’re kind of like we are in a way, running that 1-3-1. It’s going to be tougher, but it should be as you advance.”
The Cardinals say they are ready for that kind of challenge. They hope to be able to score off their defense like they did Tuesday night. That might not be as easy against improved competition, but Alexandria is a team that believes it can limit almost any team with the way the Cardinals can play defense.
“Defense and taking care of the ball is what wins games,” Christianson said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play our best defense ever, moving our feet and going quick with our hands up. That’s what we’re going to do on defense to win our games.”
Whichever team gets past this weekend knows what will likely be waiting for them on the other side of the bracket. Fergus Falls cruised past East Grand Forks 68-34 on Tuesday to improve to 27-0.
Christianson just smiled when the subject of a rematch with the top-ranked Otters was brought up. It’s a group that is driven to get back to face its conference rivals in the sections finals for the third straight season.
“We want to face them again,” Christianson said. “So that’s what we’re going to try to do on Saturday. Go in with a ton of effort so we can meet Fergus again and get some revenge.”
ALEXANDRIA 39 25 – 64
LITTLE FALLS 15 6 – 21
ALEXANDRIA – Christianson – 27; Bowser – 10; Karly Betterman – 8; Jess Syvrud – 5; Emily Thul – 2; Macy Hatlestad – 2; Dani Strater – 2; Sarah Bruzek – 2; Amanda Gould – 2; Kendall Kohler – 2; Cheyenne Hendrickson – 2
LITTLE FALLS – Katie Stewart – 2; Brooke Finch – 2; Gabby Nouis – 2; Jamie Jenks – 10; Dorn – 3; Jennifer Ronning – 2