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Basketball: Alexandria boys show off their depth in win over Marshall to wrap up the Winter Lakes Classic

The Cardinals were shorthanded with starting point guard Kristen Hoskins not in the lineup, but 10 guys scored and a suffocating defense helped them run all over a 13-win Marshall team on Saturday.

Elijah Vanderveer basketball
Alexandria's Jaxon Schoenrock, left, and Elijah Vanderveer box out Marshall's Charlie Jacobson during the Cardinals' win over the Tigers on Feb. 5, 2022. Vanderveer and Schoenrock combined for 6 points off the bench to help Alexandria improve to 14-4 overall.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA — The Alexandria boys basketball team was not about to lose on its home court as the final show after a day-long event in front of a big crowd on Saturday.

The Cardinals hosted the Breakdown Winter Lakes Classic with eight total games at AAHS -- four girls games and four boys. The Cardinals (14-4) wrapped up the showcase with a matchup against another good team in Marshall (13-7), and Alexandria left no doubt in dominating the Tigers in a 73-47 win. It was the second win in as many nights after the Cardinals beat Willmar in a 66-55 game on Friday.

“We were just ready,” senior guard Peter Sansted said. “We had a good night (Friday) and wanted to keep the energy going. We got some great pregame speeches from (senior) Wyatt Odland, and the bench has been awesome. We’re just having fun, and that’s what we wanted to get back to. When you’re having fun and you’re winning, that’s great.”

The Cardinals were without their starting point guard as senior Kristen Hoskins was on the bench in street clothes cheering on his teammates. Hoskins was out for what head coach Forrest Witt called personal reasons.

“Hopefully,” Witt said when asked if Hoskins would be back in the lineup soon. “We’re not really sure right now.”

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Eric Hedstrom basketball
Alexandria senior forward Erik Hedstrom absorbs some contact on his way to the basket against Marshall on Feb. 5, 2022. Hedstrom had 14 points in the win over the Tigers.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria showed off its depth in Hoskins’ absence as the Cardinals built a 38-21 lead by halftime. Ten different players scored as senior Carter Steffensmeier stepped into taking on a bulk of the ball-handling duty, and Zach Gundberg moved into the starting lineup.

“We’ve been very confident in our depth and the guys we have who are capable of playing more minutes,” Witt said. “Different guys have had more opportunities the last couple nights, and they’ve capitalized. Our rotation has just taken a little bit longer to figure out with that depth and how we can best utilize guys in certain situations.”

Alexandria came out in the second half and took complete control as Grayson Grove asserted himself on defense, and Myles Sansted got hot from three.

Grove, a 6-foot, 8-inch sophomore forward, had multiple blocks in a series of about five minutes of game time that energized his teammates and the Alexandria crowd. One of those blocks led to a three from Myles Sansted in transition that made it a 46-23 lead for the Cardinals.

Grayson Grove basketball
Alexandria sophomore Grayson Grove gets a shot up over the defense of Marshall's Lincoln Graven on Feb. 5, 2022. Grove had 7 points against the Tigers and made a huge impact defensively by blocking multiple shots around the rim to help the Cardinals get the 73-47 win over Marshall.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“He changes the game in a lot of ways,” Witt said of Grove. “Defensively was the big one tonight. He’s done that before with his length and shot-blocking ability. His timing is so good. He plays it pretty smart, and he’s been in double figures rebounding several times in the last month. He covers up a lot of things that we maybe get beat on a little bit where we gamble or get in a situation where we’re trying to pressure.”

Myles Sansted had one of his standout shooting games that Alexandria fans saw from him often a year ago during this program’s run to the state title game. He hit five triples and finished with a game-high 23 points while also showing off a mid-range jumper and getting to the basket.

“Myles, I don’t think he’s been struggling, but he just hasn’t gotten as many opportunities within the flow of our offense,” Witt said. “We saw tonight what he’s capable of. When he gets in that rhythm, he’s very good. Not only from perimeter shooting, but things open up for him in getting to the basket.”

Alexandria did a good job of keeping Marshall’s top shooters in check. Senior guard Noah Wilts had three of the Tigers’ four triples as he finished with a team-high 12 points.

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Zach Gundberg basketball
Alexandria senior Zach Gundberg gets to the basket for an easy layup during the Cardinals' win over Marshall on Feb. 5, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Cardinals used Grove’s defense around the rim and their pressure on the perimeter to create some transition opportunities. Erik Hedstrom joined Myles Sansted in double figures with 14 points, and Steffensmeier added 10.

“Definitely defensive intensity,” Peter Sansted said of what stood out to him with how they played. “We just weren’t going to let them score, and we were keyed in on their guys. (Wilts) and (Tyler Maeyaert), we wanted to make sure they weren’t going to get the shots off they wanted to. Once we did that, we got the turnovers we needed to push in transition.”

It was exactly how the Cardinals wanted to end the week as they secured their fifth win in their last six games. The only loss during that stretch came at Brainerd (12-6) in a 57-55 final where the Warriors’ Johnny Pecarich hit a game-winner from his back after falling to the ground.

The Cardinals are excited about the way they are playing as they head into a week with two more big games on the schedule. Alexandria is at Bemidji (8-4) on Tuesday night and then at St. Cloud Tech (9-6) on Thursday for a Section 8-3A game against the Tigers.

“Our senior leadership has been really good, and this is the time you have to shore some things up going into that mid-to-late February, early March push into section play,” Witt said. “I feel good about where we’re at. The guys have been great. There’s been a few bumps in the road, but I feel good with how they’ve responded to that adversity.”

ALEXANDRIA     38 35 - 73

MARSHALL        21 26 - 47

ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Carter Steffensmeier - 10; Turner Haar - 3; Jaxon Schoenrock - 1; Myles Sansted - 23; Peter Sansted - 2; Wyatt Odland - 6; Erik Hedstrom - 14; Zach Gundberg - 2; Grayson Grove - 7; Elijah Vanderveer - 5

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MARSHALL SCORING - Charlie Jacobson - 4; Tyler Maeyaert - 2; Noah Wilts - 12; Salman Osman - 6; Caden Fenger - 3; Omar Abdi - 6; Chidi Nwakama - 2; Lincoln Graven - 2; Cayden Werner - 2; Andrew Elton - 8

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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