The Alexandria girls basketball team had to fight off a determined Brainerd squad on Thursday night, but the Cardinals got the job done in a 56-52 win over the Warriors.
Alexandria (18-7, 11-3 Central Lakes Conference) beat Brainerd (12-11, 10-5 CLC) 57-32 in Alexandria on Jan. 2. The Warriors put three players in double figures in Myah Nelson (15 points), Olivia Tautges (13 points) and Erika Lane (16 points) in Thursday’s rematch. Alexandria fended off a hot start from three for Brainerd where the Warriors hit six of their seven first-half triples. That left the Cardinals clinging to a 29-28 lead at the break.
“Brainerd came ready to play and they were ready to go,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said in an interview with Conrad Engstrom of the Brainerd Dispatch. “They played really well today. I think in the first half they shot 70% from the 3-point line, and I just told our girls to keep playing and making plays because they are going to start missing some of those shots hopefully in the second half.”
After the break, the Cardinals picked up the defensive intensity. They forced Brainerd into 17 turnovers and held them to six points midway through.
“We made some adjustments in the second half defensively,” Kohler said. “We started running them off the 3-point line and I thought that was key for us tonight. We just got up hard and got over more on the back side. We were zagging too much in the first half and letting them do whatever they wanted.”
A basket by Mataya Hoelscher gave Alexandria its largest lead of the game at 47-36. Brainerd cut the lead to six after some Lane free throws, but a 3-point basket by Jaya Hatlestad proved to be the dagger for the Cardinals as it put them up 50-41 with 2:40 remaining.
Like the Warriors, the Cardinals had a balanced scoring night of their own. Mia McGrane had 14 points, while Ella Grove and Mataya Hoelscher followed suit with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Hatlestad put in nine points, and McGrane and Grove both grabbed a team-best seven rebounds. Lilly Horn dished out five assists to go with her five points, and Alayna Strand led the defense with four steals.
Alexandria is all alone in second place in the CLC with its 11-3 league record. Fergus Falls is 13-0 in the conference and 20-3 now overall.
The Cardinals’ final game of the regular season is Tuesday at home against Sartell-St. Stephen (8-13, 5-8 CLC).
(Conrad Engstrom of the Forum News Service contributed to this article)
Alexandria 29 27 -- 56
Brainerd 28 24 -- 52
ALEXANDRIA - Mia McGrane - 14 points, 7 rebounds; Ella Grove - 13 points, 7 rebounds; Mataya Hoelscher - 12 points; Jaya Hatlestad - 9 points; Lilly Horn - 5 points, 5 assists; Alayna Strand - 2 points, 4 steals; Cate Bloom - 1 point
BRAINERD SCORING - Kate Stadum - 2; Myah Nelson - 15; Ally Brzezinski - 5; Olivia Tautges - 13; Delaney Schaeffer - 1; Erika Lane - 16