The Alexandria girls basketball team beat St. Cloud Apollo by a combined 103 points in two games during the regular season, and it was a similar story in the Section 8-3A Tournament opener on Thursday night.
The Cardinals (15-4) dominated the Eagles (1-16) in the eight-versus-one-seed matchup, winning 54-19 to set up a semifinal game against Sartell-St. Stephen (8-11) on March 23 at a time that was yet to be determined as of Friday morning.
Alexandria allowed just three points in the first half on Thursday. It led to a 36-point lead by the break that the Cardinals never came close to giving back.
“We are a different team the last two weeks,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. “Playing Fergus Falls (March 11 in a 62-54 loss) was a valuable game for us because we were really able to pinpoint what’s going well and what needs work. We have really become laser-focused the last two weeks, and we saw that last night. Our depth now has really grown up and started to develop.”
Cate Bloom had 9 points, while Mataya Hoelscher, Myah Kremer and Alayna Strand each added 6 in a balanced offensive effort where many players saw the court.
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Teams at all levels of sports play down to their competition sometimes, but that seldom happens with this Alexandria girls basketball program. It certainly did not on Thursday after such a dominant regular season series against Apollo.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You’re always playing for something, whether it be positioning yourselves for later in the season for a seed,” Kohler said. “You’re always looking to take steps forward as a team, otherwise it’s pointless. I think that’s just a good mantra in life. You’re always looking to improve.”
Game time for Tuesday’s semifinals will be decided after the outcome of the Alexandria boys basketball playoff opener tonight, Friday, is final.
Both the boys and girls for Alexandria are the top seeds in the section, and they will host whoever they play if they keep winning. That could mean doubleheaders at Alexandria Area High School on March 23 in the semifinals and again on March 26 for section championships.
The Alexandria girls swept Sartell-St. Stephen during the regular season, but the Sabres did play them close. Alexandria won 46-43 on Feb. 8 and 57-44 on March 6.
“Sartell executes well offensively, and they’re well coached,” Kohler said. “We have a lot of respect for (Sabres’ head coach) Katie (Martin) and her kids. I think we have mutual respect. They’ll be organized and have a good game plan in place. They will have our full and undivided attention starting today.”
ALEXANDRIA 54, ST. CLOUD APOLLO 19
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Cate Bloom - 9; Mataya Hoelscher - 6; Myah Kremer - 6; Alayna Strand - 6; Lilly Thul - 5; Lilly Horn - 5; Morgan Jones - 5; Jaya Hatlestad - 3; Ellie Heydt - 3; Greta Oldencamp - 2; Hannah Boraas - 2; Hadley Thul - 2