Cardinal girls refocus after back-to-back section losses

Senior guard Lauren Trumm stole the show for the Alexandria girls’ basketball team on Saturday night, and in the process, did her best to help the Cardinals get back on track after back-to-back losses to a couple of section foes.

Trumm needed three points to reach the 1,000-point mark in her career heading into Alexandria’s game against Brainerd, an accomplishment I wrote more in depth about in a story that will be in Wednesday’s Echo Press.

She reached the milestone early in the first half on a lay-up before the game was stopped to recognize the accomplishment. Coaches had kept it a secret from Trumm, and it took her a while to realize what was going on. Once it sunk in, that look of confusion turned into quite a smile.

Contributed photo: Trumm posed with the ball she scored her 1,000th point with and a sign that the student section held up after reaching the 1,000-point mark against Brainerd on Saturday night.

“It means a lot,” Trumm said. “It’s just a huge accomplishment. It’s like a dream. How many people can say that this has happened?”

It was business as usual for her and her teammates after that. Trumm put forth her usual night in leading Alexandria to a 64-30 win over the Warriors. She finished with 28 points and six steals at the top of a 1-3-1 press that caused Brainerd fits in the second half.

That pressure defense has long been the driving force behind everything Alexandria does. The Cardinals are too long and athletic on the perimeter for most of the teams they play. That leads to a lot of takeaways and a lot of easy buckets. It was defense that allowed Alexandria to turn a six-point game early in the second half into a rout by night’s end.

“Our strength is our defense,” head coach Wendy Kohler said. “Our strength is our athleticism and our strength is our conditioning. We work really hard in practice every day. We work our kids hard, and they’re willing to pay the price to do what it takes to play like that the entire game. Every team has their strength and that’s ours.”

The two teams in the section that are most equipped to handle that pressure are Fergus Falls and Sartell. These three teams have fought for the Section 8AAA title the last two seasons, and this year looks like it will be no different.

The Otters were ranked No. 1 in Class 3A until a loss to Hawley dropped them to No. 4 in the latest Minnesota Basketball News polls. Alexandria went into Fergus Falls on January 17 and made a late charge before coming up short in a 57-44 game. The Cardinals then went on the road to Sartell, a team they had beaten 63-59 earlier in the season, and fell 46-44.

“It was a little hard because it’s always a bummer to lose,” Trumm said. “But we know that we’ll face them again.”

The next time Alexandria meets Fergus Falls will be in the regular-season finale on February 23. The Cardinals’ focus between now and then will be on making sure they’re a better team the second time around.

Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press: Sophomore guard Amanda Christianson chased after a loose ball against Brainerd on Saturday night.

“We learned a lot from that loss,” Kohler said. “You can become a better team from a loss. We identified some things that we need to do better. We’ve grown in our game plan. Every team has their weaknesses, and they’re no different. They’re a very fine basketball team, but right now our focus turns to Sauk Rapids and [St. Cloud] Tech.”

Those were the next two games on Alexandria’s schedule. Kohler won’t allow her team to look past anyone in anticipation of a rematch against the Otters.

“All season long, it’s just one game at a time,” she said. “It’s such a long season that you can’t look past anybody. You just have to keep improving every game, every day. I know it sounds like a broken record, but we just have to stay true to that.”

The Cardinals have done a good job of buying into that approach. They won 11 straight games from December 6 to January 12 and now two straight after dropping those back-to-back games. They have seven more games before they see Fergus Falls again. Every one of those is a chance to improve in preparation for a much-anticipated second match-up between the top two teams in the Central Lakes Conference.

“[We’re] on our way down now on the season,” Trumm said. “We want to really lock it in and stay focused. Each game we can come out here and just play, do what we do…we went into [Fergus Falls], and we didn’t know what to really expect. We hear all this and that – they’re number one and everything. I think that we’ll be a little more prepared. It will be a big game.”