Girls Basketball: No. 8 Alexandria outmuscles another conference foe to remain unbeaten in CLC play
Alexandria remained unbeaten in conference play with a big win over rival Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday.
ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria girls basketball team has stood atop the Central Lakes Conference standings all season long and on Friday, took on the second place team in the conference standings, the Sartell-St. Stephen Sabres.
Alexandria led by as much as 12 (43-31, 15:33 left in the game), but Sartell clawed its way back to make it a one-score game, including with 31.5 seconds left in the game (55-52). Alexandria made the plays needed to seal the win and improve to 11-0 in conference games this season.
With earning a 57-52 win over the Sabres, on Friday at home, the Cardinals took another step closer to accomplishing one of their goals of winning the conference title.
"I think we've all done a really good job of staying composed and not freaking out in situations like this so far this season," Alexandria freshman Kate Hennessy said.
With Friday's win, Alexandria improved to 17-4 overall and a perfect 11-0 in conference games so far this season.
"Being calm under pressure has definitely helped us on offense and defense this year," sophomore Allie Haabala said.
Meanwhile, Sartell drops to 15-6 (9-2) on the season. Friday's win is Alexandria's second win of the season over Sartell, as it earned a 49-31 win in Sartell on Jan. 5, 2023.
The Cardinals' effort and energy were noticeable from the get-go on Friday, and they started each half on the right foot.
"I think it's very important that we start the game strong because when we start slow, we finish slow," Haabala said.
While Alexandria, who is ranked No. 8 in the Minnesota Basketball News poll, jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the early stages of the game, Sartell kept itself in the game with five three-pointers.
But Alexandria maintained its lead by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
Alexandria's aggressiveness paid off as it earned 22 free throw attempts (made 17), while Sartell only attempted 12 (made seven).
Both teams' defenses were locked in throughout the second half, as both offenses only scored 21 points each.
The Cardinals' depth was also on display on Friday, as senior Ella Steussy, sophomore Camree Miller, junior Kaia Emter, freshman Lauren Beyer and 8th-grader McKinley Hoelscher played big roles and minutes off the bench on Friday.
Alexandria has been playing without senior Morgan Seesz for the past couple of pieces, and Alexandria is working to fill her role for the time being.
"Without Morgan, it's been tough, but everyone has stepped up," Haabala said.
Hennessy has stepped up and played nicely in the post for the Cardinals, while Seesz has been sidelined with an injury over the last couple of games.
"It's been hard not having her leadership role on the floor, but we're all really trying to step up into that role," Hennessy said.
The Cardinals had a balanced offensive attack on Friday as they had three scorers reach double figures. Sophomore Hadley Thul led Alexandria with 17 points, while Haabala had 15 and senior Chloe Scholl had 13. Senior MaCee Linow had seven points, Steussy had three, and Hennessy had two.
The Cardinals have three conference games left this season, a home game on Tuesday, Feb. 14, against Rocori (6-15, 3-7 CLC), a road game on Feb. 21 against Fergus Falls (6-15, 3-8 CLC) and a game on Feb. 24 against Brainerd (7-14, 4-6 CLC), which is the Cardinals regular season finale.
"We've got to keep doing what we've been doing and build more momentum," Haabala said.
Sartell has three conference games left this season.
Both these squads have seen a big leap this season in the conference standings, as the Cardinals finished fifth in the conference last season (6-8 CLC, 12-14 overall), while the Sabres finished fourth out of eight (7-7 CLC, 15-12 overall).
In Alexandria's 11 conference games this season, its opponents are only scoring 42.9 points per game, and Alexandria has won its conference games by an average of 27.4 points.
The Cardinals are also the highest-rated Section 8AAA team in the QRF rankings on Minnesota-scores.net, ahead of Detroit Lakes (19-3, 4-1 Section 8AAA), who is the defending Section 8AAA champion. Alexandria is 6-1 in Section 8AAA games so far this season.
Alexandria came into the night as the fifth-ranked team in Class AAA by Minnesota-scores.net, while Sartell was the 26th-ranked team in Class AAAA.
Along with the goal of winning the conference title, the Cardinals want to earn the section title as well.
"We've just got to keep executing on offense and keep relying on our defense," Hennessy said.
Alexandria has a quick turnaround as it hosts Hill-Murray (11-10) at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Sartell-St Stephen - 31 21 - 52
Alexandria - 36 21 - 57
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Ella Steussy, 3 points; Hadley Thul, 17 points; Chloe Scholl, 13 points; MaCee Linow, 7 points; Allie Haabala, 15 points; Kate Hennessy, 2 points
SARTELL-ST.STEPHEN SCORING - Kaia Gack, 6 points; Reise Geiger, 4 points; Kennedi Gack, 2 points; Avery Templin, 19 points, Brenna McClure, 6 points; Emily Crandall, 14 points; Chloe Turner, 1 point