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Girls basketball: Detroit Lakes knocks off Alexandria in 2OT to clinch spot in Section 8-3A title game

The third-seeded Detroit Lakes girls basketball team blocked out the negative stereotypes surrounding their season to hand second-seeded Alexandria a 71-67 loss in double overtime on Saturday.

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The Detroit Lakes girls basketball team celebrates its 71-67 double-overtime win over Alexandria in the Section 8-3A semifinals on Mar. 5, 2022 at Alexandria Area High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

ALEXANDRIA – Detroit Lakes had been labeled as a team that couldn't score, was wildly inconsistent and lacked cohesiveness as a unit. Those narratives were put to bed on Saturday afternoon as the Lakers knocked off long-time rival Alexandria in the Section 8-3A semifinals in a double-overtime thriller.

The Lakers (13-12) had a flair for the dramatic at Alexandria Area High School. After Cardinals' (12-14) freshman Hadley Thul drained what looked like a dagger three-pointer with under 20 seconds left in regulation, Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson drew up a game-tying play for sophomore guard Helena Daggett. She launched a three to even the score at 53-53, sending the game to overtime.

"We talked about it during the timeout, and we just had to figure out a play to get a three-point shot up," Daggett said. "Any of the girls could've taken that shot. Honestly, I didn't think about it as the play was going on if I was going to shoot it there. I just blacked out and shot it, and it was incredible."

Johnson wanted Daggett to take the shot. With 6.5 seconds left in regulation, she gave the Lakers life.

"Helena didn't hesitate," Johnson said of Daggett. "We drew up that play for her, and she didn't hesitate to take the shot. She had ice running through her veins, which, if you know Helena, doesn't exist. She's the warmest, sweetest person out there. For her to knock down that shot was so awesome. She's worked so hard this season and has put in a lot of long nights of extra work."

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Alexandria's Allie Haabala kicked off the first overtime with a three-pointer. It sparked a 5-2 start to the extra session before Detroit Lakes' Abby Larson converted an acrobatic layup to pull the Lakers within a point. Ella Okeson converted a free throw on the Lakers' next possession to tie the game 58-58.

Detroit Lakes forced a turnover and got the ball back with 38.2 seconds left. Johnson drew up a play for sophomore Grace Gunderson in the post, but a defensive stand by the Cardinals' frontcourt gave them a shot to win the game with under 30 seconds left.

An errant shot ended up in the hands of Alexandria freshman Chloe Scholl, who was fouled on her way to the rim on a put-back attempt. She missed both free throws before the Lakers failed to convert a chance at the buzzer as the game slid into a second overtime.

"It really had to do with a lot of our discussions this week," Johnson said of the Lakers' mental fortitude. "Physically, the girls are at where they're at. We're not going to grow physically in a week. We had a lot of conversations about that mental toughness today. This is it. You either dig down and show everyone how much you want to win, or you're done. We gave them that very blunt reality, especially during those two overtimes. For them to perform and execute to get it done was fantastic."

The second overtime session came down to free-throw shooting. Detroit Lakes took its first lead since the midway point of the second half on a traditional three-point play from Daggett. It was the start of a 13-7 run to close out the game, including timely free throws from Larson and sophomores Ella Okeson and Elle Bettcher. Okeson iced the game by making the second of two shots from the line with under 10 seconds left.

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Detroit Lakes' Abby Larson throws a pass over four Alexandria defenders in the second half of the Lakers' 71-67 double-overtime win over the Caridnals on Mar. 5, 2022 at Alexandria Area High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I can't even think straight right now," Daggett said. "I'm still in awe that this even happened. It was an incredible win. We all had to bring each other up when it looked bad and keep feeding off of each other. We were each other's boost of confidence out there. It was definitely a tough mental game, for sure."

"We were really excited to come into this gym and get a win after we had lost earlier in the year," Johnson said. "Now, we are really excited to continue our season. I don't have my thesaurus on me, but whatever the most exciting, exuberant word could be, that's what everyone is feeling right now."

Alexandria beat Detroit Lakes 54-21 on Jan. 27. The Lakers made it a point to bring more intensity on the defensive end of the floor this time around. One point of emphasis was to limit Thul's production in the post. Gunderson did a nice job of competing with her physically and using the help of second and third defenders in the Lakers' zone defense.

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"Don't let No. 11 get the ball. That's basically it," Larson said of the Lakers' defensive approach. "We ran our zone with someone face-guarding her. She didn't get as many points as she normally does. It helps when you have a girl that can size up with her and is lengthy like that."

Detroit Lakes started the game on a 7-2 run on the back of Bettcher's post defense. She logged two blocks and three steals in the opening six minutes.

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Alexandria's Allie Haabala, right, throws a bounce pass past Detroit Lakes' Abby Larson in the first half of the Cardinals' 71-67 double-overtime loss on Mar. 5, 2022 at Alexandria Area High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Alexandria started to find a rhythm at the end of the first half. Ellie Heydt and Haabala gave the Cardinals a 20-15 lead before Okeson drained a three herself and added a pair of free throws in the final minute.

Larson took over offensively in the second half. She tied Bettcher with a game-high 17 points, with 13 of them coming in the last 26 minutes.

"They ended up face-guarding her a little bit," Johnson said of Larson. "As soon as I saw that, I just said that she's going to have to dig down deep. They weren't going to let her get anything for free. She stayed in control of our offense and did what we needed her to do on the other end. Having her step up and be the point guard we needed her to be was awesome."

The Cardinals began to pull ahead with 13 minutes left in the game. MaCee Linow and Kaia Emter each hit two of their combined five threes as part of an 8-0 run to take a 35-30 lead. Alexandria would lead until the final minute, where Gunderson tied the game with two free throws to set up Thul's three-pointer with 19 seconds left.

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Detroit Lakes' Jacee Hauser, left, boxes out Ellie Heydt on a free-throw attempt in the first half of Detroit Lakes' 71-67 double-overtime win over Alexandria on Mar. 5, 2022 at Alexandria Area High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"As soon as (Thul) made it, I was just like, 'Ugh, alright,'" Larson said. "There was definitely some doubt. We just had to do our best to get the look we wanted and play until the buzzer goes off."

On Thursday, Detroit Lakes will head back to Alexandria Area High School for the Section 8-3A championship game against top-seeded Willmar. The Lakers fell to the Cardinals 54-26 on Jan. 14. Willmar beat No. 4 Rocori 48-41 on Saturday.

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Alexandria is a team that figures to be right back in plenty of big games in the future with this core group. The Cardinals wrap up a season where they gained a lot of experience with many freshmen taking on key roles.

DETROIT LAKES 71, ALEXANDRIA 67 (F/2OT)
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Allie Haabala - 16; Hadley Thul - 15; Kaia Emter - 9; Chloe Scholl - 9; MaCee Linow - 8; Elle Heydt - 7; Kate Hennesey - 2; Lilly Thul - 1

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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