Cardinals show growth in 56-49 win over rival Sartell-St. Stephen

Alexandria finishes strong against Central Lakes Conference rival Sartell-St. Stephen.

Alexandria's Chloe Scholl goes up for a layup in a game against Sartell-St. Stephen on Feb. 17, 2022. Scholl scored six points in a 56-49 Alexandria win.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The Alexandria girls basketball team showed growth in Thursday’s win and exacted revenge against Sartell-St. Stephen.

Sartell beat Alexandria 63-49 on Feb. 8 and had a 23-point halftime lead, but Alexandria flipped the narrative this time around, beating Sartell (14-9, 6-6 CLC) 56-49.

“We've just really turned our attention to our defensive intensity and our defensive effort,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. “We've made some changes just with how we're doing things defensively. And I just think it's all been kind of a perfect storm for us. I think this group is hungry, they're having fun, they're playing hard and they’re understanding the intensity that it takes at this level.”

The Cardinals' defensive effort remained consistent all night, limiting the Sabres to 25 points in the first half and 24 points in the second half.

“I think that’s been key for our team,” Kohler said.


Good defense got Alexandria (11-11, 6-6 CLC) through some rough patches of offense, specifically late in the second half.

Alexandria had a seven-point lead just before the midway point of the second half, but that lead dissipated a bit due to a cold spell offensively for a couple of minutes. Sartell made it a one-point game, 39-38, just after the midway point of the second half.

Sartell St. Stephen's Emily Crandall takes a charge during a game against Alexandria on Feb. 17, 2022. Elle Heydt got charged with the foul.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria had been in this position before and failed to come away with a victory. An example of this would be the loss to Marshall on Feb. 5, where it had a 13-point second half lead that disappeared in the final 10 minutes of the half and resulted in a 55-43 loss.

But against Sartell, the Cardinals made the big run, a 13-4 run to be exact, in the span of a few minutes in the latter stages of the second half. That gave the Cardinals their biggest lead of the night, 53-42 (2:27 left) and a seven-point win.

“It was just really important that we took good care of the basketball and we got some key stops defensively,” Kohler said. “(Finishing games) has been a huge learning curve for these girls.”

Kohler credits the Cardinal upperclassmen for helping the underclassmen with the learning curve.

“It’s just been a combination of multiple things that I think have kind of fueled the fire for us and the underclassmen have just kind of joined the party,” Kohler said.

Kohler credited the effort of the upperclassmen, such as Lillian Thul and Tessa McGrane (who has missed the past couple of games due to injury), as well as players who come off of the bench.


“Lilly Thul has been such a great leader for us,” Kohler said. “The kids on the bench have just been awesome. Ella Steussy has really stepped up her defensive role, and the disruptiveness that her and Elle Heydt bring to the table as defensive stoppers and energy, I think we feed off that.”

Alexandria and Sartell are still rivals within the CLC but aren’t in the same section anymore. Sartell is now in Class AAAA.

Despite that, the respectful rivalry between these two programs remains.

“They're so well-coached, coach [Katie] Martin does such a great job. I have so much respect for her and the program that she runs,” Kohler said. “Being a working mom of three littles, I respect the role model that she has been for her athletes. She loves to beat us and we love to beat her. We’re very close colleagues.”

Freshman Hadley Thul led the Cardinals in scoring with 17, 11 of which came in the second half.

Alexandria's Hadley Thul scored a game-high 17 points in a 56-49 win over Sartell-St. Stephen on Feb. 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

On the offensive side of things, Hadley said the difference maker Thursday was passing and balance in the Cardinal offense.

“We're always really good about getting our spacing out and we just know how to move the ball around,” Thul said.

The Cardinals had five scorers score at least five points.


“I think we were just a little flustered (against Sartell the first time),” Thul said. “They're good, they’re long defensively and they're all super athletic. But I think we definitely controlled the game a little bit better (on Thursday). We had a lot of girls getting more points than they usually do. We were passing the ball more and got more people involved.”

Seven Cardinals found their way on the score sheet, including Lillian Thul and Kaia Emter. Thul and Emter scored a combined 12 points off the bench and helped give the Cardinals a lead in the first half and energy throughout.

“I think we've found some really nice combinations of kids that come out and give us tremendous energy and determination,” Kohler said. “I think that's very important so that you're not riding all the kids in there when they're too tired to finish things off, and they lose mental concentration as well. It was a really solid team win. I'm proud of this crew and we just got to take it one game at a time.”

Freshman Allie Haabala also scored in double figures for the Cardinals, scoring 12 points.

Alexandria's Allie Haabala finished with 12 points in a 56-49 win over Sartell-St. Stephen.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria is back at home Tuesday for a tilt against the Fergus Falls Otters (17-5, 10-2 CLC), who are ranked fifth in the Class AA QRF rankings on

“We just got to keep doing what we're doing, continue to work on things defensively, continue to grow as a team and execute together,” Kohler said. “Just building our confidence is huge and we have to continue to be hungry.”

Tip-off against Fergus Falls is at 7:15 p.m.

Sartell-St. Stephen - 25 24 - 49

Alexandria - 27 29 - 56

SARTELL-ST.STEPHEN SCORING - Megan Driste, 8; Ella Gainsforth, 1; Rylie DeMaine, 4; Kaia Gack, 3; Avery Templin, 13; Brenna McClure, 9; Emily Grandall, 5; Chloe Turner, 6

ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Elle Heydt, 1; Hadley Thul, 17; Chloe Scholl, 6; MaCee Linow, 8; Kaia Emter, 5; Allie Haabala,12; Lillian Thul, 7

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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