Eric Morken is the sports editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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The Alexandria Blizzard wanted a chance to prove it could play with the best teams for a NA3HL title in its inaugural season. Now the team will get that chance against the defending champs. Alexandria (31-15-2, 64 points) finished third in the final West Division standings after dropping two games this past weekend, including a 4-3 shootout loss to Minnesota in the finale.
The Blizzard will likely head into the playoffs without the services of starting goaltender Kyle Miller, who has been out with a groin injury since last starting in a 3-1 loss to Granite City on February 9. Miller has started 21 games for Alexandria during the course of the regular season. He posted a 14-7 record during that time with a goals against average of 2.19 and a save percentage of .914. Head coach Jeff Crouse said Miller was told he would be out 6-8 weeks in early February.
Osakis boys basketball coach Matt Hoelscher and his team faced a daunting challenge in the first round of the Section 6AA tournament last week. The Silverstreaks have played a lot of good teams this year, but none have the fire power of the Melrose team that ended their season in a 67-27 game on Thursday night. "They are the best team we have seen," Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher said. "Not to take anything away from other teams, but Melrose has seven guys that bring something different to the table.
The Alexandria boys had no answer for the inspired play of Fergus Falls' senior forward Mike Millard on Monday night as the Otters ended the Cardinals' season by taking a 70-60 game in the Section 8-3A semifinals. Alexandria came into the game with high hopes after winning eight of its last nine games. It took just a few minutes for Millard and the Otters to dash those hopes as they jumped out to a 14-4 lead and kept the Cardinals at an arm's length the whole night. Millard was instrumental to that as he finished with a game-high 29 points.
The look of frustration mixed with sadness on junior Amanda Christianson's face said it all as Alexandria's upset bid fell just short in the Section 8-AAA title game on Friday at St. John's University. Christianson gave the Cardinals exactly what they wanted coming into the night - a chance in the closing seconds against undefeated Fergus Falls.
The Alexandria boys' basketball team had no answer for Otters' senior forward Mike Millard as Fergus Falls beat the Cardinals 70-60 in the section semifinals Monday night. Millard had a game-high 29 points, capping things off with an emphatic one-handed dunk in the final minutes before letting out a scream. He attacked the basket from the get-go and led the Otters to a 32-22 lead at the break with 15 points in the first half.
The top-ranked Fergus Falls girls' basketball team got the biggest scare of its season before holding on for a last-second win over Alexandria in the 8-3A title game at St. John's University on Friday night. Cardinals' junior guard Amanda Christianson had one last chance to pull off a huge upset against a team that came in beating opponents by an average of 27 points per game. She got the ball with 5.8 seconds left and went the length of the court but wasn't able to get a shot up in a crowded lane.
The Brandon-Evansville boys saw a poor shooting night come at the worst possible time as the Chargers' season ended in the 6A South opener against Underwood in a 58-42 game on Monday night. Brandon-Evansville hit on 16-of-55 shots and made it to the free throw line just six times. Underwood (11-13) made sure that was impossible to overcome as the Rockets shot 50 percent (23-of-46) to move on and play top-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on Thursday night. "It was a game of shooting percentages," head coach John Holsten said. "That determined the outcome.
WHAT Section 8AAA boys' basketball semifinals Alexandria vs. Fergus Falls WHEN Saturday, March 9, 7:30 p.m. WHERE MSU-Moorhead The close leads that slipped away from the Alexandria boys' basketball team earlier this season seem like a distant memory right now. That's good news for the Cardinals and potentially bad news for the rest of the Section 8AAA field.
WHAT Section 8AAA girls' basketball championship Alexandria vs. Fergus Falls WHEN Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. WHERE St. John's University, Collegeville To those outside the locker room, tonight's Section 8AAA girls' basketball title game at St. John's University may seem like an opportunity at a huge upset for Alexandria. For the players and coaches, they don't necessarily see it that way. "We will prepare for this game to win," Cardinals head coach Wendy Kohler said. "We know that we can compete with anyone, and our team is confident in each other.