Girls basketball: Alexandria earns the No. 3 seed in the state tournament
Alexandria beat Hill-Murray in the regular season and now must face Hill-Murray again to start the Class AAA state tournament on Wednesday.
To begin the 2023 MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament, the Alexandria girls basketball team, who is the No. 3 seed in the tournament, faces a squad they played in the regular season, the Hill-Murray Pioneers.
Alexandria (24-4) defeated Hill-Murray, 63-45, in Alexandria on Feb. 14 , in the third win of Alexandria’s current nine-game winning streak. The game was closer than the score indicates, as it was close for three-fourths of the game until Alexandria pulled away down the stretch.
“The game was pretty close until about the nine-minute mark in the second half, as we got some stops as well as executed on the offensive end,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. “I expect to see some zone defense from them this time around.”
Since that loss, Hill-Murray (17-11) has gotten hot, as it has won six games in a row and has held each of its last six opponents to 50 points or less.
“Hill-Murray is very physical, and they work hard defensively,” Kohler said. “They execute with patience on the offensive end also. Containing point guard Elise Groppoli will be important.”
The Pioneers, who are the Section 4AAA champions, average 50.1 points per game on offense and hold their opponents to 47.5 points per game.
The Cardinals, who are the Section 8AAA champions, average 66.8 points per game on offense and hold their opponents to 47.7 points per game.
“We will need to continue to bring great effort defensively and make teams finish,” Kohler said. “Our depth also needs to continue to be a big factor for us.”
The Alexandria versus Hill-Murray state tournament tips off at 4 p.m. at Maturi Pavillion in Minneapolis on Wednesday and will be live-streamed on NSPN.tv (the live stream requires a subscription). NSPN.tv will broadcast all quarterfinal games, the third place game, and consolation games, while the state semifinals and state championship game will be broadcasted and live streamed by 45tv (the live stream requires a subscription).
Alexandria has won 20 out of its last 21 games, starting with its 54-47 win over Mahtomedi on Dec. 30, 2022 , and has held opponents to 50 points or less in 15 of those games.
A strong defense was a big reason why Alexandria defeated Sauk Rapids-Rice, 69-44, in the Section 8AAA Championship.
“We’re obviously going to see some good teams at the state tournament,” Alexandria sophomore Hadley Thul said after the team's section title win on Thursday, March 9. “We're going to have to talk a little bit more and be more aggressive on offense.”
For seniors Charlotte Lempka, Morgan Seesz, and Ella Steussy, they’ll get to end their Alexandria high school playing careers as members of a state tournament team.
Their leadership helped the Cardinals go 14-0 in Central Lakes Conference games, take home the conference and section title, and make the state tournament for the 12th time in program history.
“Our seniors are excellent leaders and, more importantly, great humans,” Kohler said. “They have taken this entire team under their watch, and it’s been awesome.”
The winner of the Alexandria versus Hill-Murray game plays in the state semifinals against either the No. 2 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6) or DeLaSalle (23-6) on Thursday at 2 p.m. in Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
The loser of those games plays in a consolation game at 4 p.m. on Thursday in the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University, St. Paul.
On the other side of the bracket, Becker (25-3) is the No. 1 seed and faces Marshall (19-6) on Thursday morning, while the No. 4 seed Stewartville (26-2) faces the No. 5 seed Grand Rapids (25-2).
The Class AAA Championship game is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. in Williams Arena.