Boys basketball: Team play leads the way for Alexandria in win over Willmar
A balanced offensive attack helped Alexandria earn a 25-point win over Willmar on Monday.
ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria boys basketball team is a group unselfish bunch of players, and it showed in a 75-50 win over the Willmar Cardinals on Monday.
Alexandria took an early lead and never looked back, thanks to a balanced offense and good defense.
"It was really good to see," Alexandria junior Grayson Grove said. "We've got to continue to grow as a team as the season keeps going. Other teams have started to pick up on us. So that's when you really get to share the ball, and that's what makes the team most successful."
This is Alexandria's second win of the season over Willmar (8-14, 1-11 Central Lakes Conference), as it won 67-33 in Willmar on Feb. 3.
Alexandria (14-4, 9-2 CLC) had four scorers reach double figures, led by Chase Thompson with 17 points.
Grove finished with 14 points, 11 of which came in the first half and helped Alexandria gain a 45-26 halftime lead. He also finished with a double-double by grabbing 11 rebounds, and he also had five steals and two blocks.
"Grayson has definitely extended his range and ability to play from the perimeter," Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. "For him, I think now it becomes recognizing when to take a defender outside or when to take his defender inside. So it's kind of a fine line and something that he's figuring out and growing with. Also, we are, as a team, trying to find how to get him touches in the paint, and it makes sure that we can do that within the flow of our offense."
Joining Thompson and Grove in double figures was Bralyn Steffensmeier with 16 and Jaxon Schoenrock with 14 points. Steffensmeier had a team-high six assists.
Trevin Hoepner and Dawson Roderick rounded out the scoring for Alexandria with seven points a piece.
"For us, teams are keying in a lot on Chase and Grayson and those other guys in the starting rotation, Jaxon, Bralyn, and Trevin, they really embrace their role and what we're trying to do," Witt said. "It's a little bit different for each of them and different guys that are coming in off the bench. You just need guys that play defense, rebound and pass the ball, and then also; those guys are capable of scoring in their own right. It's one of those things where you start to figure out roles and kind of where guys want the ball and when guys are able to take advantage offensively."
Alexandria came into the night tied for second in the Central Lakes Conference standings with St. Cloud Tech (11-8, 8-2 CLC) behind Brainerd (15-3, 11-0 CLC).
Monday's game was the first of five conference games in an 11-day stretch.
"We've got to continue to show up," Grove said. "We'll get another crack at Brainerd later. We just really got to capitalize on such little practices with so many games coming up. We pride ourselves on defense, and with these practices, we have to stay focused and lock down on D."
Brainerd beat Alexandria 75-72 in overtime on Jan. 26 and split its regular season series against St. Cloud Tech with an 81-66 win on Dec. 16, 2022, and a 67-57 loss on Feb. 9, 2023.
Grove said getting off to a fast start in these upcoming games will be important.
"That's probably the most important thing that we're going to work on," He said. "At times, we've gotten lackadaisical on defense as a team. We've got work on cleaning that up in these few practices."
Willmar hung around early in Monday's game, but a 13-0 run late in the first half helped Alexandria build its 19-point halftime lead.
"We've got to move without the ball," Grove said. "We're looking a little flat sometimes offensively, so we've got to move without the ball."
Alexandria has had a very busy schedule as of late, as it has played three games in five days and will play its fourth game in six days on Tuesday.
In these next couple of games in a tight timeframe, getting good minutes off of the bench will continue to be vital.
"We feel pretty good about where we're at and rotations, and we have some good depth," Witt said. "We like to have nine guys that are capable of performing and giving us good quality minutes at any time. It's kind of one of those where, when your opportunities are given, be ready to take advantage of it."
Alexandria has won back-to-back CLC titles and is in the hunt for a third.
"We have to hold each other accountable," Grove said. "I think closeouts are a big part of our defense. We've got to really get up to shooters and play the drive. That's what coaches have been talking about a little bit. It's just those little things; if we can take a step forward in all those, we can go get that much better towards the end of the season."
Alexandria hits the road to Cold Spring on Tuesday to face Rocori (12-7, 5-5 CLC) at 7:15 p.m. Rocori comes into the game riding a 6-game winning streak.
Willmar - 26 24 - 50
Alexandria - 45 30 - 75
WILLMAR SCORING - Jacob Streed, 4 points; Landon Ogdahl, 12 points; Nathan Marthaler, 2 points; Blake Schoolmeester, 16 points; Khalid Muhumed, 10 points; Samuel Raitz, 6 points
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Trevin Hoepner, 7 points; Grayson Grove, 14 points; Chase Thompson, 17 points; Jaxon Schoenrock, 14 points; Bralyn Steffensmeier, 16 points; Dawson Roderick, 7 points