Ten different Alexandria Cardinals found the scoring column Tuesday, Jan. 26, confirming head coach Wendy Kohler’s assertion that her team doesn’t suffer from “star syndrome.”
Alexandria did inflict some suffering on the Brainerd Warriors offense, however, as the home team shot just 24% from the field and 13% from the 3-point line. The Warriors committed 18 turnovers and watched as the Cardinals corralled a 63-35 Central Lakes Conference victory.
Brainerd shot just 18% in the first half leading to a 29-12 halftime deficit. With the score 13-7 in Alexandria’s favor, the Cardinals used a 7-1 run to build it to 20-8. Former Brainerd student Lilly Horn scored nine of her game-high 19 points in the first half, including a field goal and a free throw during that stretch.
“The half-court pressure for the second game in a row really gave us some problems,” Warriors head coach Troy Nelson said. “When that happens you don’t fight for what you should be doing. You just take what the defense gives you and we really struggled with it.
“When you shoot 18% in the first half and I thought a lot of them were good looks they just didn't go in. Then you start to press and your defensive intensity kind of drops and then it makes it tough on you.”
PAST ACTION: Girls Basketball: Warriors suffer first loss
Alexandria closed out the half with a 9-2 run interrupted only by an Emma Tautges basket. The Warriors were 0-of-10 from 3-point and forced into 10 turnovers, which Alexandria converted into seven points.
“Defensively we work on that and we take pride in it,” Kohler said. “We set goals defensively and the kids are pretty focused on defense. We knew we were going to have to defend a tough Brainerd team that runs a lot of back cuts and ball screens and stuff like that. I thought we dug in.
“We got in the bonus right away by pressing and so we just got back and dug in in the half-court and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Alexandria didn’t hit the breaks on its defense in the second half as it ran out to a 46-13 edge early. Horn hit a 3 to open the scoring and her back-to-back field goals handed the Cardinals a 33-point edge.
“It all starts with communication and trust,” Kohler said. “This group of six seniors has played together for a while so they’re all on the same page and they are very focused. They communicate well and that’s what it’s all about defensively and then ending it with a box out.
“We just take great pride in it and that’s something that we’re known for. If you play Alexandria basketball and you can’t play defense you probably won’t play so I think our kids enjoy it.”
Alexandria shot 43% from the field. Mataya Hoelscher was the only other player to reach double figures with her 10 points as the Cardinals spread the scoring responsibilities. They shot 8-of-18 from 3-point.
“This group does a good job of breaking people down,” Kohler said. “We have very good perimeter shooters and they worked hard on their game. We just pride ourselves in the fact that we don’t have a star. Everyone has to do their part. When you have multiple kids that can score that makes it tough for teams to defend. I would much rather have that than coach a superstar. This group, there is no star syndrome and they just play well together.”
Brainerd did provide its fans with some excitement late in the second half with a 13-0 run. Iyana Pickar, who along with Emma Sheflo, led the Warriors with seven points each, started the run with consecutive points in the paint. Myah Nelson drained two 3-pointers, all of her points, to close the deficit to 46-26.
“I told the girls we finally started to run our offense a little bit,” Nelson said. “We spent a lot of time trying to get used to each other. We have a lot of different kids playing this year and we’re still learning our roles and our motion and all of a sudden we had a couple of possessions in a row where it looked like we were running our offense.”
Alexandria 29 34 -- 63
Brainerd 12 23 -- 35
Ella Steussy 2, Jaya Hatlestad 8, Morgan Jones 4, Myah Kremer 7, Cate Bloom 6, Mataya Hoelscher 10, Alayna Strand 2, Lilly Horn 19, Lilly Thul 2, Maggie Anderson 4. FG 26-61 (43%), FT 3-4 (75%). 3-point 8-18 (44%).
Hillary Hoelz 3, Kate Stadum 2, Emma Sheflo 7, Myah Nelson 6, Meghan Smith 3, Ally Brzezinski 2, Iyana Pickar 7, Emma Tautges 4, Kylie Johnson 1. FG 12-49 (24%), FT 9-19 (47%). 3-point 2-16 (13%).
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Alexandria 63, Warriors 35
Key: Alexandria held Brainerd to 24% shooting
CLC: Brd 0-2, A 2-1
Overall: Brd 2-2, A 2-2
Next: Brainerd at Sartell 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29.