The Alexandria boys basketball team continues to cement itself as the team to beat in the Section 8-3A and Central Lakes Conference fields this year.
The Cardinals took another step toward capturing a CLC title and solidifying the top seed in the section by beating Sartell-St. Stephen 73-36 on Saturday afternoon. Alexandria (15-1, 13-1 CLC) is now 4-0 against Sauk Rapids-Rice (9-5) and the Sabres (7-9), the two teams right behind it in the 8-3A seed order through the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net.
“We want to win the CLC. We want to win the section, but you can’t focus on that,” junior forward Erik Hedstrom said. “We have to take it game by game because every team is good in the CLC. Anyone can beat you on any given night, so we have to come prepared for every game we have.”
The Cardinals beat Rocori (5-9) 66-47 on Thursday to halt a four-game winning streak for the Spartans, and jumped on Sartell to grab a 38-18 lead by the break on Saturday.
“Practices are almost more intense than the actual games,” Hedstrom said. “Our JV team is very good. We have a lot of respect for them, and our practices are very competitive. We know it’s important to stay focused heading into sections.”
Alexandria’s junior varsity team has not lost this season, and those guys come in and pile up points late in many of the blowouts the Cardinals have had. Freshman Grayson Grove and sophomore Jaxon Schoenrock combined for three triples and 13 points in the final minutes.
“(Our JV players) play just like us. Hard every practice,” Hedstrom said. “They can shoot, they can dribble. They’re very skilled, and they get us going for these games.”
The Cardinals had eight threes by halftime and finished with 16 total.
“I thought our movement was good,” head coach Forrest Witt said. “Moving without the basketball is something we’ve been better at and focused on. Sometimes we get in stretches where the ball sticks and it’s not moving from side to side.”
Hedstrom had five threes and a team-high 17 points, and Myles Sansted hit four threes and finished with 16 points.
“(Shooting) is very contagious,” Hedstrom said. “If one guy gets going, all of us get going. Pretty much everyone on this team can shoot.”
Sansted provided a spark when the game was still close in the first half by coming in and getting back-to-back steals that led to a layup for him and one for Kristen Hoskins. Sansted has played his way into big minutes off the bench by what he provides with his shooting and energy.
“Myles is a very high IQ player. He’s smart. He’s in the right spots,” Witt said. “He understands situations, so he probably sensed we were a little bit flat and needed some energy. He’s just been a great spark off the bench offensively. He shoots it so well, about 40% from the arch. When you have a guy like that who can space the floor playing with Kristen and Colton (Roderick), it just gives you a really big threat on the court.”
Alexandria is the best offense in the Section 8-3A field, averaging a little more than 69 points. The Cardinals’ defense has followed suit by holding opponents to a section-low 52.4 per game. The 36 points was a season low for Sartell after the Sabres came in averaging nearly 63 points.
“Forrest likes to say communication is key to defense, so we just need to keep communicating,” Hedstrom said. “When we communicate, we have very good defense.”
With two games left, Alexandria has likely already wrapped up the top seed in the section field. The Cardinals can add a CLC title to the equation if they can win at home against Willmar on March 12 and at St. Cloud Tech on March 13. Brainerd (12-2) won’t play as many games in conference, but is 9-2 in the CLC with a split against Alexandria.
“If we focus and take care of ourselves game by game, practice by practice and get a little bit better each time out, we’ll be in good shape,” Witt said. “To compete for the conference championship and section championship is what you do it for. But the guys have been really good about every day focusing and looking at the little things.”
ALEXANDRIA 38 35 - 73
SARTELL 18 18 - 36
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Jaxon Schoenrock - 6; Myles Sansted - 16; Wyatt Odland - 5; Brady McCoy - 3; Kristen Hoskins - 8; Erik Hedstrom - 17; Colton Roderick - 9; Grayson Grove - 7; Kobe Jenson - 2
SARTELL SCORING - Evan Templin - 5; Mason Lund - 14; Blake Hartwig - 5; Nathan Nelson - 4; Logan Clark - 8