Girls basketball: Cardinals outmuscle Hill-Murray in Class AAA state quarterfinals
The Cardinals were locked in from the start in their 57-39 win over Hill-Murray on Wednesday and now face Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the state tournament semifinals on Thursday.
MINNEAPOLIS - The Alexandria girls basketball team controlled all facets of its quarterfinal game at the MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament on Wednesday against the Hill-Murray Pioneers.
The third-seeded Cardinals took control from the start and never trailed in their 57-39 win at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis and advanced to the Class AAA state semifinal.
"We came out ready to go, and we brought intensity throughout the whole game," Alexandria sophomore Allie Haabala said. "I think it was huge to start off the game strong and then pick it back up at the start of the second to keep it going throughout the whole game."
Alexandria established the tone with its style of basketball early with good defense and efficient offense.
This helped the Cardinals hold a 29-23 lead at halftime.
"We knew Hill-Murray would come out ready," Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. "They have a hall-of-fame coach, and we knew she'd have her kids ready. They gave us a very good battle. I told the girls at halftime, 'you've got to be ready to and keep playing defense until they break."'
Alexandria started the second half on a 10-0 run to increase its lead to 39-23 with 13:31 left in the game, which sealed the win.
"The locker room talk helped us, and we needed those points to start off strong," Thul said.
The Cardinals had a massive edge in points in the paint, 44-18.
"We had good screens, we cut hard, and had really good spacing," Thul said.
Sophomore Chloe Scholl made some big plays offensively for the Cardinals in the second half as she scored 13 of the Cardinals' 24 points in the final half of play.
Thul paced the offense for Alexandria as she had a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds, while Scholl finished with 16 points. Haabala finished with 12.
"We just really emphasize to our kids that they always want to look for their moments, but that we also need to play as a team," Kohler said. "We don't have star syndrome. Everybody has to do their part on offense and defense. Whether it's setting screens, being ready to rip, and taking advantage of whatever the defense gives you. This crew does a great job of that."
For the Cardinals, this is the 21st win of their last 22 games, which already included a 63-45 win over Hill-Murray on Feb. 14, 2023, in Alexandria.
"Alexandria is a really good team, and there's no shame in losing to them," Hill-Murray head coach Erin Herman said. "Wendy's one of my best friends in the coaching world, and on any other day, I'd be cheering for her. She does a fantastic job. Her kids are all well-coached, and they executed their offense well. Hats off to them; you can't take anything away from what they did."
Alexandria was efficient on both ends of the floor on Wednesday.
On offense, Alexandria shot 58.1 percent from the field, had a plus-two assists to turnover ratio, and won the turnover battle.
"All that was huge," Kohler said. "We're at our best when we get out and go. This team has done it all year long where they can work and get out into transition."
Meanwhile, Hill-Murray (17-12) shot 34.8 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 15 times.
"We've struggled quite a bit on the offensive end this year," Herman said. "We played pretty well defensively, but sometimes we didn't finish, we didn't make the best decisions with the basketball, and we don't have somebody to knock down that three-pointer when we need one. We sometimes do, but it doesn't come easily. We shot a much higher percentage in the six games before this, but we didn't shoot well here."
The Cardinals went deep into their bench in Wednesday's game, as 11Cardinals saw some action.
This includes seniors Morgan Seesz and Ella Steussy, who provided a spark off the bench with their energy plays.
"Morgan missed 13 games, and she's hungry to play," Kohler said. "She just had surgery four weeks ago, and she's a real comeback story for us. We're proud of her leadership and ability to perform at a high level again. Ella is a very good leader too, and she brings a lot of intensity for us off the bench."
Alexandria (25-4) now faces the No. 2 seed Benilde-St. Margaret's (23-6) at Williams Arena on Thursday at 2 p.m. The game is being broadcasted on 45tv.
Benilde-St. Margaret's beat DeLaSalle, 64-53, on Wednesday to get to the state semifinals.
"It's going to be a tough matchup," Kohler said. "Everybody down here is hot, and everybody down here is good. To think anything different would be fool's gold. We know what we're up against, but we also pose some difficult things for others matchup-wise with the way we play."
The winner of the Alexandria versus Benilde-St. Margaret's game plays either the No. 1 seed Becker (26-3) or the No. 4 seed Stewartville (27-2) in the Class AAA State Championship on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Williams Arena.
The loser of the semifinal games plays in the third-place game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul.
Hill Murray - 23 16 - 39
Alexandria - 29 28 - 57
HILL-MURRAY TEAM STATS - FG - 15/43; 3-PT - 4/16; FT - 5/7; Rebounds - 21; Fouls - 12; Assists - 12; Turnovers - 15; Steals - 3; Blocks -1; Fouls - 12; Turnovers - 15
ALEXANDRIA TEAM STATS - FG - 25/43; 3-PT - 3/8; FT - 4/7; Rebounds - 24; Assists - 15; Steals - 8; Blocks - 2; Fouls - 8; Turnovers - 13
HILL-MURRAY PLAYER STATS - Payton Mackley - 4 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist; Emma Vaske - 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Elise Groppoli - 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Evelyn Perkins - 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Hailey Wolgamot - 8 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Katie McGrath - 4 points, 7 assists, 1 rebound; Alexis Laleman - 1 assist
ALEXANDRIA PLAYER STATS - Hadley Thul - 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block; Chloe Scholl - 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals; MaCee Linow - 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists - Allie Haabala - 12 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists; Kate Hennessy - 1 rebound, 1 assist; Lauren Beyer- 2 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists; Morgan Seesz - 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block; Camree Miller - 1 rebound; Ella Steussy - 2 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound