Section 8AAA girls' basketball: Cardinals get their rematch with Fergus FallsAlexandria wanted another shot at the Otters and earned it with easy wins over Thief River Falls and Sauk Rapids-Rice
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Whitney Gesell’s face lit up when asked how motivated she and her Alexandria girls’ basketball teammates were to get another shot at Fergus Falls in the section title game.
That smile said it all after the Cardinals earned the opportunity to face the second-ranked Otters for the third time this season after beating Thief River Falls 69-46 in the 8AAA semifinals on Saturday. Their focus shifted almost immediately to the rematch of last year’s section title game and what it would take to see a similar result to last year’s 46-40 win that punched this team’s ticket to state.
“I think we just really have to bring the game that we normally do,” Gesell said. “Really strong defense. I don’t know, I think we can do it.”
The Cardinals had reason to believe after a dominant performance against a Thief River Falls team that had lost just three games heading into Saturday night. The defense that Gesell talked about was suffocating as the Cardinals forced 29 turnovers and had 19 steals.
Lauren Trumm seems to always be at the head of that pressure. The senior guard finished with 12 steals and had maybe the best all-around game of her career after finishing three assists shy of a triple-double. Trumm got behind the Prowlers’ defense all night on her way to 36 points. She added seven assists and five rebounds to help her team run away with things down the stretch.
“[Lauren] just has an internal desire, and she won’t stop,” head coach Wendy Kohler said. “She’s just blessed with so much athleticism and physical strength and desire, and she has made herself one of the most tremendous players in the state because of those attributes. It isn’t because of AAU ball. It isn’t because of selling her soul to the basketball gods. She’s a three-sport athlete, and she just has those intangibles.”
Trumm’s jumper with around five minutes left in the half ignited an 11-0 run for Alexandria heading into the break. That run started after Thief River Falls had tied the game at 20 apiece on two free throws. When it ended, Alexandria had scored 18 straight after adding the first seven points of the second half. The Prowlers never really threatened Alexandria again.
“I didn’t want it to end tonight,” Trumm said. “I wanted that extra week. I wanted to give it a shot. I got jitters on the bus ride here, thinking this could be it, but we really played together. We were just ready to go. Everybody.”
The Cardinals hope to duplicate the blueprint from this game in the section championship. Alexandria shot 52 percent from the field (26-50) against the Prowlers, outrebounded them 31-20 and had 11 fewer turnovers. Amanda Christianson finished in double figures with 12 points. Kalli Bowser added eight points and 11 rebounds, while Gesell and Cara Wood added seven and six points, respectively.
They know they will need to match that kind of production against one of the top 3A teams in the state this Friday. Fergus Falls made easy work of Sartell last Saturday night, winning 61-43 to move to 27-1 on the season.
The Otters can beat teams from all over the court. Sydney Schultz scored her 1,000th career point against the Sabres last weekend and finished with six threes and a game-high 22 points. She forms a dynamic backcourt with Brianna Rasmusson and Haylie Zenner. Fergus Falls also has plenty of athleticism up front in 6’2” Mariah Monke and 6’0” Anna Monke.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Kohler said. “They’re loaded. They’re talented from top to bottom. We’re going to have to play a good game. We’re going to have to play together, and we’ll have a good game plan in place and take the court on Friday night.”
All Alexandria wanted was that opportunity. The Cardinals lost 68-53 the last time these two teams met in the regular season finale. That was a one-point game at the break before missed free throws proved costly for Alexandria in the second half.
The Cardinals’ focus immediately turned toward earning another shot at the Otters in the section finals. Now that they’re here, they have no plans on backing down.
“We know that we have a shot,” Trumm said. “We’re not going to [give in]. Yeah, we have nothing to lose because it could be our last game, but we know we can’t let anything go. We have to be really fundamental. We know they’re a good team. It shows. We just need to lock it in on defense and produce on offense.”
THIEF RIVER FALLS 20 26 – 46
ALEXANDRIA 31 28 – 69
TOTALS – Alexandria – FG – 26-50; 3-PT FG – 3-6; FT – 14-18; Rebounds – 31; Assists – 13; Steals – 19; Turnovers – 18; Thief River Falls – FG – 18-39; 3-PT FG – 6-16; FT – 4-8; Rebounds – 20; Assists – 8; Steals – 8; Turnovers – 29
ALEXANDRIA – Gesell – 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Trumm – 36 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 12 steals; Bowser – 8 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 steals; Christianson – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Wood – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Jessica Syvrud – 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals; Amanda Gould – 1 rebound
THIEF RIVER FALLS SCORING – Brooke Yaggie – 14; Crystal Amundson – 7; Brooke Anderson – 4; Lindsey Guzek – 12; Kristyn Scholin – 5; Lilly Kainz – 4
Alexandria 70, Sauk Rapids-Rice 18
The Cardinal girls were as dominant as a team can be in the 70-18 win over Sauk Rapids-Rice in the opening round last Thursday night.
Alexandria went on an incredible 41-0 run before the Storm finally scored late in the first half. The Cardinals led 41-4 at the break and got plenty of rest for their starters in the second half before their match-up with Fergus Falls on Saturday.
Lauren Trumm led Alexandria with 22 points as eight different players scored for the Cardinals. Whitney Gesell added 16 and Amanda Christianson finished with 13.
ALEXANDRIA 41 29 – 70
SAUK RAPIDS 4 14 – 18
ALEXANDRIA – Trumm – 22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals; Gesell – 16 points; Christianson – 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals; Kalli Bowser – 7 points, 5 rebounds; Amanda Gould – 4 points; Abby Hlinsky – 3 points; Sarah Bruzek – 3 points; Jess Syvrud – 2 points; Cara Wood – 5 assists