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Alex wins thriller in overtime of 8AAA quarterfinals

Alexandria senior Karly Betterman lets her emotions out as she gets a hug from fellow senior Emily Thul after Betterman hit the shot that sent her team to overtime in the Section 8AAA quarterfinals against Detroit Lakes on Tuesday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

ALEXANDRIA —Alexandria’s Karly Betterman had just two points at the end of regulation on Tuesday night, but they proved to be the two most important points of the game.

Without them, the Alexandria girls’ basketball team would have seen its season end in heartbreak. Instead, the Cardinals will advance to the Section 8AAA semifinals against Fergus Falls on Saturday after Betterman’s rebound and putback at the buzzer forced overtime in a game Alexandria eventually won 51-46 against Detroit Lakes.

“I couldn’t even believe it,” Betterman said. “I didn’t want the game to be over. I didn’t want my season or career to be over. It was just crazy. I’m still in shock.”

The senior point guard wasn’t done after she forced the extra session. Betterman added five more points in overtime, including a driving layup that gave her team a 46-45 lead. The Cardinals never trailed again as Betterman and Amanda Christianson combined for five free throws to put the game away down the stretch.

Alexandria had to regroup a little bit after such a wide range of emotions at the end of regulation. Betterman burst into tears as she hugged her teammates after hitting the game-tying shot. At that point, she said she knew the game was theirs for the taking.

“Right when the overtime came, I knew we had it,” Betterman said. “I believed in all of us. I just knew I had to be composed and the whole team had to be composed. I knew that if we were focused that we could get it done.”

The Cardinals’ ability to keep their composure during a wild second half was something head coach Wendy Kohler was most proud of with her team. Alexandria led 20-12 at the break and by 12 points after junior center Brooke Heggie hit back-to-back buckets in the opening minute of the second half.

The Lakers slowly chipped away from there. Near the eight-minute mark, they had cut their deficit to just one before taking their first lead on a bucket by Kyra Vagle that made it 34-33 with 3:35 left. Vagle then made two free throws with less than a minute to play that gave her team a three-point advantage.

“I think our girls just stuck with the game plan,” Kohler said. “They didn’t panic when DL came back. They didn’t speed up. They just stuck with the game plan against that match-up zone and kept executing. That was huge. Had we panicked and started forcing things and going off doing our own thing, the game could have got away from us.”

There were moments when Alexandria could have panicked late in regulation. The Cardinals had two chances to tie or take a lead at the free throw line in the final minute, but Betterman and Christianson each missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Neither girl let that faze them. Christianson scored a runner late in regulation and added two free throws in overtime that made it a two-possession game. Her final shot in regulation helped set the stage for the tying bucket.

The Cardinals were down two and had the ball after Detroit Lakes made one of two free throws with about 10 seconds left. Freshman Kendall Kohler caught the ball at the top of the key on the final possession and released a three that just caught the front iron. Betterman was there for the rebound as she put it up and in to tie things up at 41 apiece.

“She was huge,” Kohler said of Betterman. “Betty never gives up, and we were running a little high-low action there, or a little freeze action to Brooke and Amanda to get the shooters on one side. Betty went right to the back-side board and pulled it in.”

The Cardinals had five players with at least seven points to help get the win. Heggie finished with 14 while playing with four fouls over the final six-plus minutes of regulation and into overtime. Christianson had 11 points, while freshmen guards Macy Hatlestad and Kohler played with a lot of poise on their way to 10 and seven points, respectively.

“Kendall and I have just accepted our roles on the team,” Hatlestad said. “We know what we have to do to help the team win. We’re going to contribute however we can to help the team succeed.”

Alexandria will enjoy this one but turn its attention tomorrow to a third matchup against top-seeded and 26-1 Fergus Falls on Saturday. The two teams will tip off at 6 p.m. at St. Cloud State University.

The Cardinals were 0-2 in the regular season against the Otters, but felt good about the way they played the last time they faced them in a 63-52 game at home.

It’s two teams that know a lot about each other, and Alexandria isn’t scared of a good Fergus Falls team. Instead, the Cardinals are looking forward to getting another shot at the Otters on Saturday.

“Last time we played them at home, we played really good,” Hatlestad said. “Even though we lost to them by [11], we played really well. I think the keys are lifting each other up like we did last time. Settling down on offense, boxing out and getting them in foul trouble…it’s just another game. So what they’re number one in state? We’re ready for them more than ever.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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