Card girls' basketball: State-ranked match upThe battle between Alexandria and Fergus Falls, both in the state rankings, was won by the Otters
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The atmosphere at Jefferson High School was as good as it has been in years for a match-up between the top two girls’ basketball teams in the Central Lakes Conference last Thursday night.
Fans packed the gymnasium hoping for an upset as second-ranked Fergus Falls came to town in the regular season finale. The Otters finished the season 16-0 in the CLC for a reason, though, as they pulled away for the 68-53 win.
“Fergus is a very good team,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. “They’re very seasoned. They’re a veteran team. They have kids that have been starting since the eighth grade. We’re still a relatively new team, and we’re still going to get better.”
It looked like the Cardinals might give the fans what they came for through the first 18 minutes. Alexandria jumped out to an early lead behind 14 first-half points from Lauren Trumm, who finished with a game-high 21. They trailed by just one at the break, thanks in large part to going 14-of-17 from the free throw line.
Those fortunes from the stripe changed in the second half. Alexandria got to the line another 14 times after halftime but converted just five of those. The Cardinals missed five straight at one point during a time when they were still within single digits.
The Otters made Alexandria pay for those missed chances. Brianna Rasmussen was the catalyst as she scored eight points to help her team build a 59-46 lead. The sophomore guard finished with a team-high 17 as the Otters swept the season series with Alexandria and moved to 25-1 overall.
“We didn’t do anything differently in the second half than we did in the first half,” Kohler said. “The difference was we went 5-for-14 from the free throw line in the second half. We got the ball where we wanted to get the ball; we just didn’t convert on the free throws. That really was the story of the game.”
It’s tough to beat anyone when missing free throws, but it takes on added importance against an Otters team that can throw a little bit of everything at opponents. Rasmussen, Haylie Zenner and Sydney Schultz combined for 37 points on the perimeter last Thursday night.
Inside, Mariah Monke led her team with 14 points in the post. It is a handful coming up with a gameplan to slow the Otters down, but Kohler was hardly ready to wave the white flag if these two teams meet again.
“We have a few tricks up our sleeves that we’re saving for the playoffs,” she said. “We didn’t show all our cards, so to speak, tonight. We have some definite adjustments that we’ll be making to try to take away some of their strengths. They’re a tough team. They got a lot of weapons…but there’s some things we can do to slow them down.”
All the Cardinals can do now is earn themselves another shot at the Otters. Fergus Falls got the top seed in the North half of the Section 8AAA field. That’s the same position that Alexandria holds in the South.
Both teams need to get through the first two rounds if they’re going to meet in the finals. Alexandria was scheduled to open up against Sauk Rapids-Rice (7-19) last night, Tuesday. Snow was expected yesterday and into today. If that caused postponements, the opening round games would be moved to Thursday night.
Alexandria will have to get through the winner of Thief River Falls (22-3) and Detroit Lakes (13-12) this Saturday if it gets past the Storm. That game would be played at St. Cloud State at 7:30 p.m.
The Cardinals are not taking anything for granted now that the win-or-go-home portion of the season has started. If both Fergus and Alexandria hold serve and end up in the section finals, the Cardinals will relish a shot at round three.
“We consider ourselves a good team,” Kohler said. “And it’s tough to beat a good team three times. We just told the girls, ‘They can have this win tonight.’ We’re just going to take care of business. Everyone is 0-0 right now, and we just got to get ourselves in position to get another crack at them.”
FERGUS FALLS 34 34 – 68
ALEXANDRIA 33 20 – 53
ALEXANDRIA – Trumm – 21 points, 6 steals, 2 assists; Christianson – 11 points, 3 steals; Bowser – 10 points, 10 rebounds; Cara Wood – 7 points, 2 assists; Whitney Gesell – 4 points, 2 assists;