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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Alexandria's Joe Stallman could see plenty of potential in his springer spaniel, Holly, from the time he started working with her as a puppy. "The things that she was doing at a young age, her speed, her style, her bird drive," he said. "These just kind of made me think this dog is a little bit different." Holly hasn't disappointed with those expectations. In fact, she surpassed what Stallman had in mind when she took second place out of almost 120 dogs at the National Spaniel Field Trials in Illinois in late November.
There was a change at the top of the NA3HL's West Division but it didn't involve Alexandria after the Blizzard got swept in games against Granite City and Minnesota this past weekend. The Lumberjacks have been getting a lot of attention through the early portion of the season after coming back as the defending champions.
The Osakis boys were left hoping a few days away from the game would help them regroup. The Silverstreaks had an opportunity to carry some momentum into their Christmas break last Thursday. They had a 1-4 team down by three at the half on their home court only to watch Bertha-Hewitt outscore them by 15 points in the final 18 minutes. That carried the Bears to a 57-45 win and left Osakis still searching for that elusive first win. "It's just one of those things where we don't have a lot of experience," head coach Matt Hoelscher said.
The Brandon-Evansville boys came back from a loss in the opening round at the Kimball Tournament to take third place with a win on Saturday. The Chargers saw an 11-point lead at the break get shaved to four right after the half before some strong defense led to a 63-45 win over Spectrum.
The Brandon-Evansville girls took a three-game winning streak into the holiday break after a career night from Megan Friedrich last Thursday. The senior guard finished with a career-high 20 points and 18 rebounds as she helped the Chargers to a 55-46 win over Bertha-Hewitt. She was one of three players in double figures as Megan Kokett added 15 points and Emily Friedrich finished with 10. "Megan had a good game," head coach Dick Simpson said. "We shot well again and played pretty good defense. [Arei] Stokes is a pretty good player, and we were able to keep her somewhat under control.
A lot can change in hockey from one game to the next. Five days after the Alexandria boys steamrolled Willmar 12-0, the Cardinals found themselves searching to even find a goal against St. Cloud Apollo. The Eagles came into the Runestone Community Center with a 4-3 record and needed just two second-period goals to leave with a 2-0 win on Tuesday night. "It's been so good to this point that you just kind of expected that we'd show up," head coach Scott Woods said. "Even in the first when we didn't look that great, we still put up some shots. It just got worse from there. We just struggled.
The Cardinal boys' basketball team proved that even when shots aren't falling, a team can still find a way by doing the little things right. Alexandria shot just 1-of-12 from three-point range and 36 percent overall against a 3-0 Little Falls team on Tuesday night. That didn't matter in the end as the Cardinals held on for a 46-43 win that snapped a three-game losing streak. They did it by outrebounding the Flyers 30-19 and hitting 19 free throws. Alexandria also played well on defense as Little Falls finished 14-of-41 from the field, including a 4-of-18 night from three.
The Brandon-Evansville boys' basketball team has made obvious strides since the beginning of the season, but it wasn't enough to hold off a talented Ashby team on Tuesday night. The Arrows built a 15-point lead at the break and held on for a 65-54 win, despite the best efforts of the Chargers' John Haseman. The senior forward scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the second half before a Brandon-Evansville rally came up short. "I thought we played a really good game defensively the first half, especially containing John," Ashby head coach Jeremy Knick said.
The Brandon-Evansville girls hit eight threes on their way to a 58-47 win over Rothsay on Tuesday night. Carlie Steffenson had four of those triples on her way to a team-high 14 points. Megan Friedrich matched that point total and added seven rebounds. Emma Friedrich finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 boards as Brandon-Evansville won its second game in a row after starting the season 0-5. Those triples helped the Chargers overcome a night where they shot 36 percent overall (20-56).
The Alexandria boys' basketball team showed what it can do when shots are falling through one half last Friday night. The Cardinals overcame a slow start to take a 25-21 lead into the break over a 3-1 New Prague team. Junior guard Brandon Bistodeau hit two threes during that stretch and Chase Kohler added another as Alexandria got good looks out of its half-court offense. Those same looks didn't fall after halftime. The Cardinals were held to 22 points through the final 18 minutes, and New Prague used an 8-0 run out of the locker room to take a lead it wouldn't relinquish.