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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Osakis' first-year head coach Matt Hoelscher admitted after a 48-45 win over Brandon-Evansville on Tuesday night that he had circled this game on the calendar before the season started. Not necessarily because he figured it was bigger than any of the other 24 games on the regular-season schedule. He circled it because of who was leading the team on the opposing sideline. John Holsten guided the Alexandria boys' basketball program for 15 seasons before taking over in Brandon-Evansville.
The Alexandria Blizzard will host its final home game of the regular season tonight, Friday, after splitting two games this past weekend against Granite City and Twin City. Alexandria fell to 0-6 on the season against the defending champs as the Lumberjacks handed the Blizzard a 3-1 loss on Saturday night. Scott Murray was a wall in net for Granite City as he turned aside 50 shots to pick up the win for his team. The Blizzard didn't help itself by spending a lot of time in the penalty box.
The Alexandria boys' basketball team needed a game like it got on Saturday night. The Cardinals jumped out to a 42-28 halftime lead over Bemidji, then rolled on to an 83-51 victory as Logan Doyle dominated the paint. He finished with a game-high 28 points and 28 rebounds. Doyle hit 11-of-18 shots, went 6-of-7 from the free throw line and added five blocks to his line. It was a welcome relief for an Alexandria team that was coming off another close loss from the night before.
The Alexandria gymnastics team set a new team record with a final score of 143.725 to finish second at the Central Lakes Conference championship meet on Saturday. The only team to better that was St. Cloud Tech. The Tigers, Class AA's third-ranked team, finished with a score of 149.425 to win their ninth straight conference title. Willmar was third in the team standings with a score of 140.975. The Cardinals got off on the right track by hitting 5-of-5 routines on the beam. That set the tone for the rest of the day as Alexandria set a team record in this event with a score of 36.15.
Chad Malvin of Carlos doesn't usually fish for northerns through the ice, but on Saturday, he was willing to make an exception. "On a day like today, I put down a big jig with a big [shiner] minnow, hoping," he said. "Because I knew a smaller northern is a bigger fish in this tournament." Malvin was exactly right, and in the Alexandria Sertoma Club's Ice Fishing Challenge, his go-big-or-go-home approach netted him the $20,000 top prize for a northern weighing in at 3.91 pounds.
Chad Malvin of Carlos was the big winner at the Ice Fishing Challenge on Lake L'Homme Dieu on Saturday afternoon as his 3.91-pound northern stood the test of time. Malvin, 23-years-old, said he caught the fish about a minute after the tournament started. He didn't even have his line all the way down when it latched on. "I knew it was a big fish," he said. "And I knew it was going to break my line. About 30 seconds after I got the head up, it broke my line off, and I grabbed it right behind the neck and pulled it up.
The Alexandria boys' basketball team had another chance to close out a tight game on Friday but came up a few seconds short in a 56-54 loss to Brainerd. The Warriors came into the night with a 9-0 record in the Central Lakes Conference and left with their perfect record intact. But it took everything they had. Alexandria's junior guard John Vogeler made sure of that as he poured in 17 points in the second half and finished with a game-high 21. "It's really hard to explain," Vogeler said of watching another close game slip away. "We've been there every step of the way the whole season.
The Cardinals gymnastics team was struggling to even come close in competitions when Alexandria head coach Becca Cederberg first joined this program as an assistant five years ago. Alexandria labored through a 0-16 record in the Central Lakes Conference from 2008-2010.
Doubters of the Osakis girls' basketball team seem to be dwindling with every win this team gets. The Silverstreaks haven't been ranked in the Class AA polls all season despite a now 17-2 record. That includes a win over a team that was ranked third at the time in Sauk Centre on January 8. Even after that victory, people still seemed to be taking a wait-and-see approach on a group of players who were coming off a 16-10 season. Head coach Pat Kalpin said he rarely talks to his girls about the rankings, and says he likes the position they have been in as underdogs.
The Osakis girls have a pretty good closer in junior guard Annalise Savageau and the Silverstreaks used her to pull out a 51-46 win over Litchfield on Saturday afternoon. Savageau had 22 of her game-high 27 points after halftime as Osakis held on for its sixth straight win to move to 16-2 on the season. "Annalise really had a great second half," head coach Pat Kalpin said. "She was able to go on a run to give us the lead." The Silverstreaks needed almost every one of those points against Litchfield team that wouldn't go away.