Cards know bigger challenges await them starting this weekend

The Alexandria girls’ basketball team took care of business against fourth-seeded Little Falls on Tuesday night the way good teams do when they are a heavy favorite.

Alexandria dominated from the get-go, storming out to a 20-2 lead that forced a Little Falls timeout with 9:47 left in the half. The Flyers didn’t even have a field goal through almost 11 minutes before Melanie Dorn finally hit a three.

“I think with every team, we have pretty good defense,” senior center Kalli Bowser said after scoring 10 points. “We just try to keep our hands up and frustrate teams. We knew they didn’t have a lot of size, so we knew that would be to our advantage. We just had to get after them.”

Bowser and junior guard Amanda Christianson were the two players in double figures for an Alexandria team that had 11 players score in all. Christianson helped control the game with her ability to do a little bit of everything. She hit three triples, added six free throws and got the ball in the middle of the lane where she created easy looks for her and her teammates.

Junior guard Amanda Christianson followed through on her release during the second half on Tuesday night. Christianson finished with a game-high 27 points. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“I was feeling really good,” Christianson said. “I just knew I wanted to play another game this season so I was trying to come out with a lot of confidence and energy. My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball, so I have to give all the credit to them.”

It was a win that was fully expected coming into the night. Now the Cardinals know a greater challenge awaits them this Saturday when they go to Moorhead to take on a 25-2 Thief River Falls team in the section semifinals.

The Prowlers’ only losses have come to a 27-0 Fergus Falls team and by one point to a 19-5 Crookston team. They feature some quality shooters in girls like junior guard Brooke Tagglie and senior Brooke Anderson. Alexandria head coach Wendy Kohler called them long and athletic and a group that likes to get out and pressure teams with a 1-3-1 defense, much like the Cardinals.

“We’re excited for the challenge,” Kohler said. “At this point, this group is confident. They’ll be well prepared and ready to go. We’ll take care of ourselves, certainly, but we’ll be well prepared. The girls will be very aware of the game plan, who their scorers are and what we need to do offensively and defensively to get things done.”

Kohler called it a similar Thief River Falls team to the one Alexandria faced a year ago. Cardinal fans will remember that game as one that Alexandria controlled completely after a late first-half run. The Prowlers came in with just three losses but proved to be no match for an Alexandria team that got out and ran its way to a 69-46 win.

The Cardinals were aided by what was perhaps the best game of Lauren Trumm’s career that night. She was dominant in every way, finishing with 36 points, 12 steals, seven assists and five rebounds.

Like last year, the Prowlers once again will come into Saturday night’s game with a great record. Their 25 wins has them ranked eighth in the latest Class AAA polls. Unlike last year, Alexandria doesn’t have Trumm to lead the way. But that doesn’t mean this team isn’t equally as confident in its ability to get to another section finals game.

“It’s just all in,” Kohler said. “Everybody has to give it everything they have every game, every possession, one stop, one rebound. Then we move on and advance. I just think this group has an internal drive and a Cardinal legacy, what they want to leave in this program. They’re not ready for their season to be over, and they’re going to do everything they can to take care of business one game at a time.”

It’s a group that is also driven by the opportunity to face conference and section rival Fergus Falls one more time. The Otters are the clear favorites in this section after 27 straight wins this season. They are the top-ranked team in the AAA polls and have the size, guard play and experience to contend for a state title.

That’s what either Alexandria or Thief River Falls will likely have waiting for them on the other side of the bracket after this weekend. The Cardinals know it would be a challenge, but it’s one they hope to get if they can put together a good game against the Prowlers.

“They have pretty lethal shooters when they’re hitting threes,” Bowser said of the Otters. “We would have to play really good defense. They have a lot of skill on that team. We’ll just have to see what it comes down to. That would be fun [to play them again]. And to have the outcome be in our favor the third time would be really nice.”