Girls basketball: Cardinals take a big step forward in 2022-23 season
Their season ended on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater loss to Becker in the Class AAA third-place game, but Alexandria is proud of the leap it took this season and is excited about the future.
ST. PAUL - Alexandria and Becker left it all out on the floor in Saturday’s MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament third-place game in the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University-St. Paul.
Neither team led by more than nine points in what was a game that both teams deserved to win.
Alexandria sophomore delivered the go-ahead basket for the Cardinals with 5.4 seconds left which gave them a 56-54 lead.
But after a timeout, Becker senior Maren Westin, who made a game-tying three-pointer minutes earlier, worked around a pair of Alexandria defenders and knocked down a tightly contested three-pointer at the buzzer to give Becker a 57-56 win.
Alexandria finishes the season with a 25-6 record and a fourth-place finish at the Class AAA State Tournament.
“We asked our kids to be different today and bring an iron will and thought they did that,” Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. “They’ve played so well this season, and they had a great season.”
Thul led the Alexandria offense in scoring with 24 points, while Danielle Nuest led the Becker offense with 21, Ayla Brown had 16, and Westin had 14.
Sophomores Chloe Scholl and MaCee Linow reached double figures as Scholl had 18.
Alexandria had the early 9-0, but Becker, who was the No. 1 seed in the tournament, responded nicely to take a 25-22 lead into the halftime break. Alexandria, who was the No. 3 seed in the tournament, had the momentum for most of the second half. However, Becker made good late adjustments to seal the win.
The Cardinals accomplished a lot this season, as they built on a 12-14 record from a season prior to finish 19 games above .500. They were not only Section 8AAA champions but Central Lakes Conference champions with a perfect conference record.
“Every day they came ready to go, and I know that sounds like a cliche, but they did the work,” Kohler said. “It’s a long season, and they had a difficult schedule. Their schedule prepared them for this moment.”
Entering the state tournament, the Cardinals won 20 out of their last 21 games and defeated Hill-Murray, 57-39, in convincing fashion in the Class AAA State Tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 15.
All of that helped lead them to get to play on the final day of the state tournament, which was one of the team’s big goals this season.
“Our goal was to play on the last day possible, and I think we all made the next step,” Kohler said. “Our seniors really led the way for our younger players. I think everybody understands what that next step is, and I see that look in their eyes to be strong not only in basketball but the other sports they play, as well as in the classroom and anything that they love. I think that once the seniors lead the way to get there, the younger players know how to get there, and that will be the goal moving forward."
Alexandria has three seniors on its roster, Morgan Seesz, Charlotte Lempka, and Ella Steussy.
Kohler is happy that they got to finish their high school basketball careers on the final day of the state tournament.
“Their hearts are broken right now, but they’ll take what they’ve learned this season and leadership moving forward in their lives,” Kohler said. “Young girls need role models growing up, and I’m excited for these seniors’ futures.”
Alexandria has a lot of returning pieces for next season.
The team currently has two juniors, eight sophomores, four freshmen, and one eighth-grader in the program.
“Our seniors were great leaders, and they really brought our younger players in,” Kohler said. “Our young players really grew up today.”
With some much youth on the team, the program is excited about the future.
“I think that the sky’s the limit,” Kohler said. “We just have to keep getting better every day and not take any day for granted.”
Alexandria - 22 34 - 56
Becker - 25 32 - 57
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Hadley Thul, 24; Morgan Seesz, 2; Chloe Scholl, 18; MaCee Linow, 5; Allie Haabala, 5; Kate Hennessy 2
BECKER SCORING - Danielle Nuest, 21; Maren Westin, 14; Ayla Brown, 16; Lauren Croal, 2; Evelyn Kreft, 4