Girls basketball: No. 8 Alexandria tops Brainerd to finish conference play 14-0

The Cardinals put a nice bow on the regular season with a 65-51 win over Brainerd to finish conference play undefeated (14-0) and the regular season 22-4. Alexandria begins the Section 8AAA playoffs next week.

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Alexandria's Lauren Beyer gets by a Brainerd player for a layup during Alexandria's 65-51 win on Feb. 24, 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria girls basketball team already had the Central Lakes Conference title secured before Friday's game against Brainerd (9-16, 5-8 CLC) but wanted to end the regular season on a high note.

With a 65-51 win, Alexandria finished CLC play unbeaten (14-0) and is headed to the Section 8AAA playoffs with a 22-4 (7-1 Section 8AAA) record.

"It's been fun to watch them develop this year as a team and a unit," Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. "I think, first and foremost, they're great teammates, and they just stay focused one day at a time, one practice at a time, and one game at a time. They keep accomplishing great milestones together, and they just move on to the next day into the next milestone. I think they're unselfish; they play together, and they've been locked in."

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Alexandria's MaCee Linow drives to the basket against Brainerd's Kate Stadum in the first half of Alexandria's 65-51 win on Feb. 24, 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The Cardinals, who are ranked No. 8 in the Minnesota Basketball News poll, built a 17-point lead (40-23) at the half thanks in part to MaCee Linow's 12 first half points.

The Warriors cut the Cardinals' lead a bit in the second half, but the Cardinals made the plays needed to win by 14 points.


Hadley Thul led the Cardinals in scoring with 21 points on the night.

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Alexandria's Hadley Thul looks for an open teammate to pass to during Alexandria's win over Brainerd on Feb. 24, 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

"She's a special kid; she draws a lot of attention from all the defenses," Kohler said. "She sets the table for her teammates and draws multiple defenders. She's very unselfish and makes great reads, and she continues to be able to score in spite of what teams are throwing at her. She's got skilled teammates around her, and they're ready to hit the open looks when they have them. She's also been a menace defensively, offensively, and ripping the boards. She takes pride in all areas of her game. She's a special girl and teammate."

Linow finished with 16 on the night, while Chloe Scholl had 15, and eight Cardinals got in the scoring column in Friday's win.

Friday was senior night for Alexandria's three seniors, Charlotte Lempka, Morgan Seesz, and Ella Steussy.

"All had three different journeys, and I think the biggest thing they have in common is their leadership, their character, and how they've been leaders in the classroom, the hallways, and the locker room," Kohler said. "They're solid individuals in all roles of their life, and they're good role models for their younger counterparts to look up to."

Alexandria has been one of the best teams in the state, and since Dec. 30, 2022, Alexandria has won 18 out of its last 19 games.

"This season has been super nice," Steussy said. "There's been so many new things that we've learned and worked together on. Those tough games early on helped us prepare for conference play."

Friday's game was Alexandria's last of the regular season, and now the team is turning its attention to the postseason.


Alexandria has dealt with its fair share of injuries this season but has continued to battle through them well, thanks to a solid overall rotation.

"We've had a lot of injuries, and our depth has been very apparent here as we move down the stretch," Kohler said. "It's been unbelievable how our kids have just with 'next man up,' and they just didn't miss a beat which is awesome."

Alexandria is a deep and young yet experienced team.

The Cardinals have 13 players on varsity (out of 18) who are sophomores or younger.

"They have awesome energy," Steussy said. "They help us prepare for anything. They've just shown so much growth. Everybody just brings such a special talent to the team."

Alexandria is the No. 1 seed in the section playoffs and plays either the No. 5 seed Rocori (6-19, 3-5 Section 8AAA) or the No. 4 seed Willmar (10-16, 1-6 Section 8AAA) in the section semifinals on Saturday, March 4, in Alexandria (time TBD).

Willmar and Rocori face each other in Willmar on Thursday at 7 p.m.

"It's going to be a battle; whoever we get, we'll be prepared for," Kohler said. "We'll go one game at a time and one practice at a time. We've got practices now just to get better. I think that's the most special thing about this group. They've just continued to get better every single week, which is a testament to what they've been able to put together to this point. If they continue to improve, I think the ceiling is very high for this group."


Alexandria has finished atop the Section 8AAA regular season standings for the last seven postseasons and could be the No. 1 seed again this year ahead teams like Detroit Lakes (22-4, 5-1 Section 8AAA) and Sauk Rapids-Rice (16-10, 4-4 Section 8AAA).

In that span, Alexandria has made the state tournament four times (2017, 2018, 2020, and 2021).

Last season, Alexandria fell to Detroit Lakes in the semifinals in a hard-fought double-overtime thriller.

"I think we really kind of got to know each other a little more," Steussy said. "We have way more team chemistry and know how everybody works together. We know our strengths and what we can do for everybody else. Our coaches lift us up and do everything they can to support us."

Brainerd - 23 28 - 51

Alexandria - 40 25 - 65

BRAINERD SCORING - Ava Loney, 2; Kate Stadum, 6; Mya Tautges, 15; Ana Bjorklund, 3; Brook Sandberg, 3; Karley Dunham, 10; Allison Thomsen, 2; AJ Johnson, 2; Addison Bjorklund, 7

ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Ella Steussy, 3; Lauren Beyer, 4; Hadley Thul, 21; Chloe Scholl, 15; MaCee Linow, 16; Camree Miller, 1; Kaia Emter, 1; Kate Hennessy, 4

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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