Girls basketball: Strong second half lifts Red Knights over the Cardinals in Class AAA state semifinals
Benilde-St. Margaret’s rallied after an early injury to one of their players on Thursday in the Class AAA state semifinals in what was a 70-51 win over Alexandria. Alexandria is now ready for battle with Becker in the third-place game on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS - A young Alexandria squad started off its semifinal game in the MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament hot on Thursday against Benilde-St. Margaret's as it led 13-6 in the early going.
But the Red Knights scorched the net from there on out on offense to earn a 70-51 win over Alexandria at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
"We were prepared for the game, we knew what we were coming into, and Benilde's a tough team," Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler said. "They're a physical team with a couple of division one talent, and they have good players in supporting roles. Tip your hats to them; they're a great team."
The Red Knights shot 54.3 percent from the floor (25/46) in the game and 50 percent from the three-point line (8/16).
"It's hard when they're going on a roll, but we stayed connected as a team," Alexandria sophomore Chloe Scholl said. "We tried to be positive, and we didn't really take it too personally."
On defense, the Red Knights held the Cardinals to 17-of-57 shooting from the field and 6-of-20 from beyond the three-point line.
Benilde-St. Margaret's led 36-30 at halftime and built on that by outscoring Alexandria 34-21 in the second half.
"I'm really proud of the way our girls battled; we never gave up," Kohler said. "Things just got away from us in the second half, but we celebrated every point, every defensive stop, and kept attacking. Benilde is a physical team; we have a lot of young players. And I think that physicality bothered us, especially late in the game."
With the win, the second-seeded Knights take on the No. 4 seed Stewartville on Saturday in the state title game.
Alexandria, the No. 3 seed, plays the No. 1 seed Becker in the third-place game at 2 p.m. at the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University-St. Paul.
"We're hoping to get better offensive looks," Alexandria senior Morgan Seesz said about the game against Becker. "In this game, we didn't really get the inside looks we were hoping to get. Becker is a smaller team, so hopefully, we can get more of those inside shots."
The Cardinals had some positives in Thursday's game, such as winning the turnover battle. Alexandria had 13 turnovers, while Benilde-St. Margaret's had 18.
"We knew we could get here," Alexandria senior Ella Steussy said. "Being able to come here and show our talents, I think, shows that we have a strong team inside and out, physically and mentally."
With 11:26 left in the first half, BSM sophomore Kendall McGee went down with an apparent serious lower-body injury.
"You never want to see anything like that happen to anyone, and we wish her well," Kohler said.
The Red Knights rallied after that point, as they took their first lead of the game, 14-13, with 10:59 left in the first half on an Olivia Olson bucket in the paint.
"When she went down, we went over her, and she said, 'I can't lift my knee,'" Olson said. "I went back over, and I was like, 'She's probably not going to be back in. So we need to win for her and, like, play as hard as we can because she can't be out here right now.' I think everyone got on board with that, and I think everyone just kind of played harder at that point, especially in the second half."
Olson, who is a junior that is currently committed to play college basketball at the University of Michigan after high school, paced the Red Knights' offense throughout the game as she finished with a double-double, 33 points, and 13 rebounds.
On the Alexandria side, sophomore MaCee Linow paced the offense as she finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Fellow sophomore Hadley Thul added 13 points and five rebounds.
Alexandria's last game of the season comes against an opponent, Becker, whom it has already played this season.
Becker beat Alexandria, 76-59, on Dec. 29, 2022 , at the Granite City Classic, in a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicates.
Alexandria is looking forward to playing on the final day of the state tournament and hopes this year's state tournament experience will help them later.
"We're led by great seniors, and today we just never stopped attacking, we never stopped playing the game that these kids love, and we're excited about their future," Kohler said. "We're excited to play in the third-place game."
Alexandria, for the most part, is a young team as it has three seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen, and two 8th-graders on the roster.
And playing on this stage and leading in the state semifinal game was a big step forward for an overall young team to take.
"They get along so well, and they have a great sisterhood," Kohler said. "We're driven by our seniors. They have taken this group under their wing, and they've been a part of this Alexandria legacy. We're proud of our legacy. They've led the way, and once you get that sweet nectar of being down here, you want it again and again. We've had a tough schedule that has prepared us for this moment. And I think it will, in the future, as we continue with these players."
Becker lost to Stewartville, 60-59, in the other Class AAA state tournament semifinal game on Thursday.
The third-place game is going to be broadcasted on NSPN.tv (live stream costs money) .
Alexandria - 30 21 - 51
Benilde-St. Margaret’s - 36 34 - 70
ALEXANDRIA TEAM STATS - FG - 17/57; 3-PT - 6/20; FT - 11/16; Rebounds - 30; Assists - 4; Steals - 12; Fouls - 16; Turnovers - 13
BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S TEAM STATS - FG - 25/46; 3-PT - 8/16; FT - 12/18; Rebounds - 38; Assists - 14; Steals - 6; Blocks - 6; Fouls - 13; Turnovers - 18
ALEXANDRIA PLAYER STATS - Hadley Thul - 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals; Chloe Scholl - 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal; MaCee Linow - 15 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal; Allie Haabala - 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals; Kate Hennessy - 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Ella Steussy - 2 rebounds, 2 steals; Morgan Seesz - 2 points, 3 rebounds; Lauren Beyer - 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Camree Miller - 1 point, 1 rebound; Kaia Emter - 3 points, 1 steal
BENILDE-ST.MARGARET’S PLAYER STATS - Olivia Olson - 33 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal; Zahara Bishop - 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists; Sierre Lumpkin - 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist; Kendall McGee - 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Kate Kapsner - 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Sydney Friedly - 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block; McKenzie Wells - 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block; Mira Wismer - 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Ashley Skram - 1 rebound; Eleanor Porisch - 1 point; Bella Stevenson-Shimek - 1 rebound; Samantha Gearen - 1 block