Boys basketball: No. 5 seed Alexandria ready for battle against the No. 4 seed Mankato East at state
Alexandria begins the 2023 Class AAA state tournament with a tilt against the third-place team from a year ago, Mankato East, on Tuesday at Noon.
ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria boys basketball team (24-4) is back in the state tournament for the eighth time in program history and begins the MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament at Noon on Tuesday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis against the No. 4 seed Mankato East (24-5).
Mankato East, who won the Section 2AAA championship, is making its second-straight state tournament appearance (11th overall).
"Their squad this year shoots very well from the arc, and they try to spread you out in a 5-Out dribble drive motion," Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. "They seem to have very good balance with five or six guys that can consistently reach double figures on a given night."
Mankato East was the No. 4 seed in last year's tournament and defeated Mound Westonka, lost to eventual champion Totino-Grace in the semifinals and beat Princeton in the third-place game.
"Mankato East has a rich boys basketball tradition," Witt said. "They have been one of the better AAA programs in the state over the past 10-15 years."
The Cougars have been on a roll recently as they have won 11 out of their last 13 games since the start of February were one-point losses to Northfield and Mankato West.
Alexandria has also been in a groove. Alexandria, who won the Section 8AAA championship, has won its last 11 games, 10 of which were decided by double figures.
"I like the rhythm we are playing with throughout the past couple of weeks," Witt said. "We have had good flow offensively, and we are sitting down and guarding on D. We have been repping up their offensive set plays and 5-Out motion, along with ensuring we are mentally prepared with their key personnel. It's important that we understand the individual strengths and weaknesses of their guys."
Alexandria's offense averages 73.2 points per game.
The Cardinals have also been stout defensively, as they have held opponents to 52.8 points per game.
Mankota East is averaging 76.8 points per game and has held opponents to 59.4 points per game.
The Cougars have some veteran experience as they have three seniors and three juniors on their roster, but they also have some youth as they have 10 underclassmen (six sophomores and four freshmen).
The Cardinals have a mixed bag of experience as well as they have four seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, and four freshmen on the roster.
Witt said that good leadership is valuable at this stage of the season.
"Leadership is always critical, and the further you go into the tournament, the more important it becomes," he said.
Like Mankato East, Alexandria has some state tournament experience in recent history, as the program finished runner-up in 2021 .
This time around, the Cardinals are looking for more success.
"When you get to this point in the season, everyone is very good, so your margin of error is small," Witt said. "Every possession is extremely valuable and needs to be treated as such. This is why the kids put all the work in, so we'll embrace the opportunity and make sure we empty the tank."
The Alexandria versus Mankato East state quarterfinal game winner plays in the state semifinals on Thursday at Noon in the Target Center against either St. Francis (17-12) or the No. 1 seed Totino-Grace (20-5).
The loser of those games plays in the consolation bracket on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul.
All consolation games and the third-place game will be played at the Gangelhoff Center, while the state semifinals and state championship games are at the Target Center.
The MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament Championship Game is set for 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Target Center.
The quarterfinals, third-place game, and consolation bracket games will be live-streamed on NSPN.tv (subscription required). The semifinals and finals are being live-streamed by 45tv.