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Boys basketball: Cardinals ready to make another run in Section 8AAA

The Cardinals have some spots to fill but are aiming to be one of Section 8AAA's best again this season.

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Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt leads a huddle at the end of practice on Nov. 21, 2022. Alexandria is looking to make another deep run in the section this season.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press
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The Alexandria boys basketball team has been one of the best in Section 8AAA in recent years and it is looking to keep it that way this season.

But to do that, it’ll have to refill the spots of 10 seniors from last year's team.

“I expect our team to be competitive each night,” Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. “We don't have a wealth of returners with varsity experience, but I really like the talent we have and the competition that will exist for spots in the rotation. With a bunch of seniors graduating from last year, we have a bunch of roles up for grabs. We're trying to kind of figure out right now kind of who's going to step in and fill those early in the season and step up."

The Cardinals were the top seed in the section last season and lost the section championship game to St. Cloud Tech, 71-69. The Cardinals are hungry for more success in the 2022-23 season.

“We have a hungry group of kids that want to compete and keep our program moving in the right direction,” Witt said.

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Alexandria's Jaxon Schoenrock knocks down a three late in the first half against St. Cloud Tech on Dec. 17, 2021. Schoenrock is one of a couple Cardinals back from the 2021-22 team that went 23-6.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Cardinals have a 45-8 record over the last two seasons (23-6 in 2021-22) and the team made a trip to the 2021 MSHSL Class AAA Championship game.

Witt says he expects St. Cloud Tech (20-11 in 2021-22, 13-2 Section 8AAA) to be one of the top teams in the section along with Rocori (11-17 in 2021-22, 5-8 Section 8AAA). The Cardinals are aiming to make another run at the section title.

“For us, we’re going to be first figuring out the cohesion, chemistry and roles that everyone's going to kind of settle into,” Witt said. “With so many unanswered questions and new guys, that'll work its way out as we move forward. I like our talent, we have good returners that we like and that can fill those spots. It’s just a matter of filling in those situations and gaining some experience.”

Alexandria finished tied for the best record in the Central Lakes Conference last season at 13-3 with Brainerd. Witt expects Brainerd, along with Rocori and St. Cloud Tech to be near the top once again this season in the conference.

The Cardinals return 6-foot-8 junior Grayson Grove who was a co-Defensive MVP of the team last year and averaged 12.5 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals per game, and a block per game. Grove earned all-conference honors at the end of last season.

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Alexandria junior Grayson Grove (left) and sophomore Chase Thompson (right) go up for a rebound during a practice on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. Grove and Thompson are two of the more experienced players the Cardinals have returning for the 2022-23 season.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“I really like the talent we have, but the key ingredient will be how our rotation evolves and players settling into the role that will give us the best chance to be successful,” Witt said.

Witt said along with Grove, sophomore Chase Thompson are likely going to be two players that opposing defenses are going to be focused on and that their other shooters can take advantage of that. Witt also likes the experience that Trevin [Hoepner] and Jaxon Schoenrock bring.

Alexandria begins the season at home against Benilde-St. Margaret's at 7:15 p.m. on Friday.

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"This should be a great challenge for us game one," Witt said. "They're going to be tough. They'll be one of the better AAA teams and we'll get a stiff test from them early which is good. We wanted to schedule them here so we can see what we got and what we need to work on."

Benilde-St. Margaret's finished the 2022-23 season with a 18-10 record and were the 12th highest-rated team in the Class AAA QRF rankings on Minnesota-scores.net, while Alexandria finished sixth.

2022-23 ALEXANDRIA CARDINALS BOYS BASKETBALL

Head Coach - Forrest Witt
Assistant Coaches - Tom Miller, Ty Granning, Nick Jansen, Jerry Witt

Schedule (subject to change) -
Dec. 2 vs Benilde-St. Margaret’s 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 6 vs Detroit Lakes 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Sauk Rapids-Rice 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 13 vs Willmar 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 15 vs Bemidji 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 16 at St. Cloud Tech 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 20 vs Rocori 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 22 vs Hutchinson 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 29 vs St. Francis TBD
Dec. 30 vs Holy Family TBD
Jan. 6 vs St. Cloud Apollo, 7:15 p.m.
Jan 12. at Fergus Falls, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Sartell-St.Stephen, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 24 at Detroit Lakes 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26 at Brainerd 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 31 vs Sauk Rapids-Rice, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 3 at Willmar 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 4 vs Orono 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 vs St. Cloud Tech 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 14 at Rocori 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 17 at St. Cloud Apollo 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 21 vs Fergus Falls 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 23 vs Sartell-St. Stephen 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Monticello 7 p.m.
Feb. 28 at Moorhead 7:30 p.m.
March 3 vs Brainerd, 7:15 p.m.
March 7 Section 8AAA Quarterfinals
March 10 Section 8AAA Semifinals
March 16 Section 8AAA Finals

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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