The Alexandria girls basketball team is in the midst of another winning season, and the Cardinals had a chance to get another confidence-boosting win on Tuesday night.
Moorhead is a good Class 4A team with an 8-4 record coming into its match-up with the Cardinals. The Spuds showed that by leaving Alexandria with a 55-48 win.
“I think Moorhead really hit their shots well,” Alexandria senior forward Summer Gerhardt said. “We had more turnovers than we probably should have, but I felt it was a pretty even match-up, especially in the second half when we came out with more intensity.”
The first half is when Moorhead did much of its damage. The Spuds closed the half with a three at the buzzer from Kenzie Dauner. It was her second three in the first 18 minutes, and senior guard Rylie Polomny had three triples in the first half. That led Moorhead to a 28-13 lead after the Spuds’ zone defense frustrated the Cardinals’ offense.
“Zone is something we don’t face that much, especially one that is so spread out like that one is,” Gerhardt said. “We’re usually used to running our attack game on man defense. Having them in that zone was a bit of a struggle, but we were eventually able to get the hang of it.”
Alexandria was hindered early when senior forward Ella Grove picked up her second foul and had to spend the rest of the half on the bench. Gerhardt stepped up to score eight points off the bench to give the Cardinals a chance going into the second half.
“I think it’s not even as much of a points or rebounds thing,” Gerhardt said of trying to step up in Grove’s absence. “It’s bringing fire to the team and encouragement. If one person is fired up, that’s going to travel to the team and you’re going to do better when you’re feeling better.”
Alexandria had runs in the second half where it tried to get back in the game. Jaya Hatlestad’s three with almost nine minutes left cut the Cardinals’ deficit to 39-31.
It was down to a 45-40 Spuds’ lead when Mataya Hoelscher hit a corner three with about six minutes left, but that’s as close as Moorhead let Alexandria get. Polomny had a game-high 19 points, but the Spuds also got 12 points from Samantha Hulst and eight each from Dauner and Samantha Zimmerman.
Junior guard Myah Kremer led Alexandria with 10 points. Grove finished with nine, while Gerhardt and Mia McGrane were next in line with eight and seven points, respectively.
All four of Alexandria’s losses this winter are against winning programs in Class 4A’s New Prague (10-5) and Class AA powers Fergus Falls (12-1) and Sauk Centre (12-1) before the Moorhead game. Even in a loss, playing a team like Moorhead serves as a good challenge for a Cardinals team that figures to be one of the favorites in the section playoffs.
“I think it’s really just a change of intensity between the levels,” Gerhardt said. “We have to match their intensity right away rather than waiting for the second half.”
The Cardinals (12-4) are still unbeaten against Section 8AAA teams and 6-1 in the Central Lakes Conference. Alexandria will try to use the loss to the Spuds as a learning lesson with plenty of big games left on the schedule against the likes of Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Willmar and Becker before the playoffs start in late February.
“I think the biggest thing (going forward) is working on our communication skills and our teamwork,” Gerhardt said. “Making sure we’re all on the same page, and then getting rebounds offensively and defensively. That’s a big thing for us because we’re not as big as we were last year. We need to get those boards so we can push and get out in transition.”
ALEXANDRIA 13 35 - 48
MOORHEAD 28 27 - 55
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Jaya Hatlestad - 5; Mia McGrane - 7; Ella Grove - 9; Myah Kremer - 10; Mataya Hoelscher - 3; Lilly Horn - 6; Summer Gerhardt - 8
MOORHEAD SCORING - Megan Haugo - 6; Alexa Gronwold - 2; Rylie Polomny - 19; Kenzie Dauner - 8; Samantha Hulst - 12; Samantha Zimmerman - 8