Alexandria made certain during Wednesday’s Class 3A quarterfinals that Monticello’s magic ran out. The Cardinals, now 21-1, played with no fear from the get-go in the first trip to this tournament for all of these players.
Alexandria defended at a high level and put five guys in double figures on the way to a 75-53 win. It moves the Cardinals into the semifinals at the Target Center on April 8 against Richfield (16-4), which beat Mankato West (16-5) on Wednesday.
“It’s big for these guys first and foremost, and it’s big for our program as a whole,” Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. “All the young kids and the kids who have been in our program in the past. It’s a collective effort.”
Alexandria’s Kristen Hoskins lines up a three during the first half on March 31, 2021 against Monticello in the state tournament. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Kristen Hoskins got the ball on the right wing on Alexandria’s first possession and sized up the defense that was sagging well off of him. Hoskins eventually just pulled up and drained a three before looking back at the Magic bench.
It was a sign of things to come. Hoskins had three first-half triples, and the Cardinals had eight threes as a team in the opening 18 minutes. They finished with 10 in the game.
“When you play against a unique defense like a triangle-and-two, it can kind of get you mentally off balance,” Witt said. “To hit some shots early and attack it well was good motivation and confidence for our guys.”
Junior guard Wyatt Odland is known for the defense he provides this team, but he hit two big threes in the first half to get the ball rolling. Odland had eight points in the opening minutes that helped Alexandria to a 38-29 lead at the break.
Alexandria junior guard Wyatt Odland lines up a three from the right corner during the first half on March 31, 2021. Odland had two early threes that helped the Cardinals get going in the win over Monticello. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
“He’s been shooting the ball really well the last stretch of this season,” Witt said. “That was huge for him to hit those. It gave us confidence offensively, and defensively he’s been really good. He had a couple close block/charge calls that went against him. He took one too. He’s averaging taking a charge a game, and he’s stretching the defense too with his shooting. Then he cuts well. He’s a real smart player.”
Witt said his guys had two great practices leading up to Wednesday’s game and seemed focused on the task at hand. It showed in the opening minutes and then how the Cardinals responded to a Monticello run to make it a single-digit game at the half.
Alexandria put the game away with a 10-0 run to start the second half. Senior guard Colton Roderick had five of his game-high 21 points during that stretch, and Hoskins’ driving layup made it a 48-29 lead with 15:37 left. The Magic did not have a run left in them after that.
Alexandria junior guard Carter Steffensmeier hangs in the air before putting up a layup on the fastbreak against Monticello in the Class 3A state quarterfinals on Wednesday night in St. Cloud. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Alexandria’s growth offensively in terms of depth was on full display. Carter Steffensmeier (10 points), Myles Sansted (10), Hoskins (13), Roderick (21) and Kobe Jenson all finished in double figures on a night when one of the Cardinals’ top scorers, Erik Hedstrom, had 3 points and the team still won by 22 points.
“Guys have just really settled into their roles. Everyone understands who can score,” Witt said. “If Erik has two points, then Kobe steps up or Wyatt steps up. Colton had a big game offensively. It’s been a collection of guys and a number of leading scorers who have really been consistent from game to game…Somebody is always ready to step up and make a play.”
That’s the blueprint of what Alexandria needs to do to give itself a chance at making the state championship game. The Cardinals’ game is at 1 p.m. on April 8.
Alexandria senior guard Colton Roderick gets into the lane for a layup during the first half against Monticello on March 31, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
With one more win, the Cardinals will guarantee at least a share of their best finish ever in state from when they finished as tournament runner-up a few years ago — in 1943.
“This thing did not just start in November. We built a foundation that is pretty solid, and these guys are taking that to another level,” Witt said. “It’s just exciting for the whole Alexandria basketball program.”
ALEXANDRIA 38 37 – 75
MONTICELLO 29 24 – 53
ALEXANDRIA SCORING – Carter Steffensmeier – 10; Myles Sansted – 10; Wyatt Odland – 8; Kristen Hoskins – 13; Erik Hedstrom – 3; Colton Roderick – 21; Kobe Jenson – 10
MONTICELLO SCORING – Wyatt Sawatzke – 6; Aaron Puppe – 6; Gus Hangsleben – 9; Carson Kolles – 15; Calvin Schmitz – 15; Sam Valor – 2