Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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To say the sport of curling has changed John Landsteiner's life would be an understatement. It's taken the Mapleton native all over the world, including to the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia where he was part of a ninth-place finish. It's even how he met his wife. "We met at college club nationals," Kelsey Landsteiner said from Alexandria on March 4. "That was usually in Chicago. That year, in 2013, they decided to do it in Duluth. Our teams ended up playing each other, and it took off from there."
Basketball fans gathered on the court at Alexandria Area High School as players celebrated with their family and friends after the Cardinals beat Thief River Falls on Tuesday night. Wins this time of year are worth celebrating when the alternative is a season that ends so abruptly. It isn't long, though, before the focus of players and coaches start to shift toward another win-or-go-home game on the horizon. For Alexandria, that means Bemidji on Saturday night.
The Alexandria girls basketball team had experienced back-to-back heartbreak in the Section 8-3A title game the last two years. The Cardinals weren’t going to let that happen again. Alexandria, led by 11 seniors, dominated defensively on Thursday at St. Cloud State University to beat Sartell-St. Stephen 44-26 in a game that the Sabres never led.
BOYS BASKETBALL Osakis vs. Albany, 6AA playoffs, 7 p.m. B-E at Hancock, 6A South playoffs, 7 p.m. Parkers Prairie vs. BBE, 6A South playoffs, 7 p.m. WCA at Battle Lake, 6A South playoffs, 7 p.m. GIRLS BASKETBALL Alexandria vs. Sartell, Section 8-3A Finals, 7 p.m. at SCSU
Alexandria’s Justin Balcome broke to the right side of the lane as senior guard Spencer Hockert led a 2-on-1 break midway through the first half of the Section 8-3A opener on Tuesday night. Hockert dished it off right before getting to the bucket as the 6-foot, 8-inch Balcome caught it in stride and threw down a one-handed dunk.
BOYS BASKETBALL Alexandria vs. Thief River Falls, Section 8-3A QF, 7 p.m. GIRLS BASKETBALL Parkers Prairie vs. WHN, 6A South Finals at U of M-Morris, 7 p.m.
West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville coach Brandon Gruchow was named Minnesota Class-A Wrestling Coach of the Year this past weekend. Gruchow has guided the Knights to three straight team state tournaments. They finished this regular season with a 24-1 record, took fourth at state as a team, and had nine wrestlers compete at state as individuals.
BOYS BASKETBALL Ashby at CGB, 6A South playoffs, 7 p.m. WCA vs. WHN, 6A South playoffs, 7 p.m.
The Parkers Prairie boys basketball team handed West Central Area its eighth straight loss on Friday night as the Panthers (19-7) beat the Knights (10-14) 66-61. West Central Area held a 47-46 lead in the second half after an Aaron Wiese three, but the Panthers responded with a three of their own and never trailed again.
Brandon-Evansville girls basketball coach Dick Simpson has been on the sidelines for 38 years. He's racked up more than 600 wins during that stretch, but he's also seen some tough losses. Saturday's Section 6A South semifinal game fell into that category. Simpson didn't sleep much on Saturday night as he replayed the game in his head after the Chargers came just one point shy of knocking off third-ranked and now 28-0 Wheaton-Herman-Norcross. Brandon-Evansville held an 11-point lead at the half in Morris, but the Warriors pulled out a 42-41 win in the end.