Alexandria holds off Rocori ahead of top-10 matchup with Princeton, while Knights pull away from Hillcrest
The Cardinals were pushed by a 1-win Rocori team on the road on Tuesday night but found a way to improve to 6-0 ahead of a big matchup with undefeated Princeton on Dec. 29 in St. Cloud.
The Alexandria boys basketball team was tested as much as it’s been tested all season on Tuesday night, but the Cardinals found a way to get out of Cold Spring with a 65-62 win over Rocori to stay unbeaten at 6-0.
The Spartans, another Central Lakes Conference and Section 8-3A team with Alexandria, are 1-6 on the season. They rose to the challenge on Tuesday as they scored their second highest point total of the season against a Cardinals defense that is statistically the fourth best in Class AAA right now in terms of opponents’ points per game allowed. Alexandria gives up just 46 points a night while scoring 74.2 a game itself.
“Rocori played very well,” Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. “I thought we lacked some energy and were a little stagnant. We had a couple nice runs in the second half that created some separation, but credit Rocori as they didn't fold and battled back.”
Senior forward Erik Hedstrom had 17 points to help lead the way for Alexandria.
The Cardinals are now off through Christmas as they prepare for a matchup with a good non-conference, non-section opponent. Fourth-ranked Alexandria faces seventh-ranked Princeton (6-0) out of Section 5-3A at 7 p.m. on Dec. 29 at St. Cloud State University. The Tigers are beating teams by an average of 30 points per game, scoring 88 and allowing 58.
“Princeton has a nice team,” Witt said. “That will be a fun matchup and we look forward to that challenge.”
It’s part of the Breakdown Granite City Classic in the St. Cloud Area the week between Christmas and New Year. Alexandria wraps up that two-game event by playing Class 4A’s Robbinsdale Cooper at St. Cloud Apollo High School on Dec. 30 at 2:30 p.m.
Knights get back on track
West Central Area bounced back from its only loss of the season on Dec. 17 at undefeated Morris Area by styming Hillcrest Lutheran Academy (2-2) in a 55-39 win on Dec. 21.
It was a 22-20 WCA lead at halftime before the Knights (5-1) started the second half on a 14-5 run and took control.
“We always know Hillcrest is going to be a tough game,” WCA head coach Kraig Hunter said. "Their teams always work hard and play great defense. We were disappointed with the way we finished the first half. We got sloppy with the ball and gave up too many second-chance points to let them back in the game. We challenged the kids at halftime to give a stellar rebounding effort in the second half and to do a better job on Sam Brumfeld and they responded.”
Brumfeld had a team-high 16 points for Hillcrest, but no other Comets player had double figures.
“Nas Dotts did a good job on Sam, along with better help from his teammates,” Hunter said. “I think we got their offense out of sync and then we finished off possessions better with a good rebounding effort in the second half. We didn't shoot well from the line or from the three tonight, but that's one of our things is believing that you can still win games on nights you don't shoot well if you play good defense."
Senior guard/forward Ryder Staples continues to be a catalyst for WCA as he finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.
Hunter felt the Knights’ bench was a key factor in pulling away for the win.
“I thought Isaac Kreft and Damon Sanstead made a big difference with their post presence, forcing help along with some physical defense and keeping some offensive boards alive,” Hunter said. “Bryce Kjesbo came in and hit a big three. Mitch Dewey was solid as usual taking care of the ball and distributing some nice assists, and Peyton Hanson also came in and played some good defense."
The Knights are off until Dec. 28 when they go to the Pelican Rapids Tournament.
WCA 55, HILLCREST LUTHERAN 39
TOTALS - WCA - FG - 20-42; FT - 12-26; Rebounds - 38; Turnovers - 16; HILLCREST - FG - 15-51; FT - 4-7; Rebounds - 28; Turnovers - 18
WCA - Ryder Staples - 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals; Cole Anderson - 11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals; Nas Dotts - 9 points, 3 rebounds; Jacob Strunk - 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals; Cam Anderson - 5 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists; Bryce Kjesbo - 3 points, 3 rebounds; Isaac Kreft - 2 points, 2 rebounds; Damon Sanstead - 2 points, 2 rebounds; Mitch Dewey - 3 rebounds, 3 assists
HILLCREST SCORING - Sam Brumfeld - 16; Noah Brumfeld - 8; Yuchan Ha - 8; Luke Sorenson - 5; Caden Fisher - 2