The gold standard: Alexandria takes care of business, Detroit Lakes looks to leave loss in the past
The Alexandria boys basketball team made quick work of Detroit Lakes in a 93-53 win on Tuesday night. Former Laker Erik Hedstrom celebrated one more night at DLHS, while Detroit Lakes senior Nate Cihak was left looking for answers.
Any skepticism of whether or not Alexandria could reload after making it to the Class AAA title game last year was put to rest on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals (1-0) showed off every tool in their arsenal in a 93-53 win over Detroit Lakes (1-1) at the Ralph Anderson Gym. In an early Section 8-3A matchup, one team solidified itself as the clear favorite while another was left with an early season turning point.
"We might meet (Alexandria) two more times–once for sure," senior Nate Cihak said. "We will see them again in the regular season and maybe in the playoffs. I think the coaches are going to figure out who's going to pout who's not. We have to keep our heads up and push through. Losing is a good thing in the regular season, especially early. We have to learn what we can control and try to find positives from this."
Cihak was one of the bright spots for the Lakers with a game-high 22 points. However, he couldn't outgun the Cardinals' offensive juggernauts on his own. Senior guards Kristian Hoskins, Carter Steffensmeier and Myles Sansted combined for 57 points in the Cardinals' first win of the season.
"Coach (Forrest) Witt talked about how we have to set the tone for the season tonight," senior Erik Hedstrom said. "Last year was great, but it's over with. This is a new team with new guys, and we have to focus on this year."
The Lakers went on a 9-2 run midway through the first half to cut Alexandria's early lead to 15-13. That was what sparked a 29-8 run from the Cardinals, including four Sansted three-pointers.
Defensively, Alexandria smothered Detroit Lakes in the back end of the first half to take a commanding 57-29 lead into the locker room.
"We lost a lot of great seniors, so we had some younger guys step up defensively tonight," Hedstrom said. "We used our quick guards and our post well. I feel like all of us can move really well. DL is a lot better of a team than people give them credit for. They're going to be good this year and get a lot of wins. I'm happy that we were able to get this one."
With little time to make up a 28-point halftime deficit, the final 18 minutes were a chance for the Lakers to see what they could do against the fourth-ranked team in the state, according to Minnesota Basketball News.
"It's a big deal," Cihak said on playing until the final whistle. "I think Caeden Yliniemi is a great example of somebody that goes hard until the end. Those kids who are learning how to be varsity basketball players see that and will work hard like him. They're going to see him get more playing time, and they should learn from it. It's good for our program to have us play hard until the end of every game no matter what the score is."
"I guess maybe weights?" Cihak joked about how the Lakers are going to move past Tuesday's loss. "But seriously, we're going to get back to practice with our heads high. Positivity is going to be a big thing. Winning the next one doesn't erase this loss completely. It's going to be in the back of our minds. (Alexandria) is the gold standard. They're going to be the best team we play all year. Moving forward, we have to take it one day at a time."
For Alexandria, Tuesday was a chance to shake off any cobwebs from the offseason and emphasize having fun as a team.
"It's one of our main points besides defense," Hedstrom said on making the game fun. "We have fun together. We are going to play basketball and have a good time because it's way more fun when we're all in this together."
Hedstrom grew up in Detroit Lakes before moving to Alexandria before high school. Ahead of the new gym opening in early 2022, Hedstrom was happy to get one more game in his old stomping ground.
"I was a little nervous going into it," Hedstrom said. "I knew a lot of former teachers and friends were going to be here. I just had to focus on the game. A lot of people told me the new gym was going to be ready, but I kind of wanted to play one last time in this gym. I grew up in this gym, so it's really good to be back, and I'm really happy we got the win."
Hedstrom was all smiles catching up with familiar faces after the game. He's made it a point to keep ties to his Laker friends, especially Cihak.
"Nate and I still keep in touch and are good friends," Hedstrom said. "We hang out in the summer all the time. We keep tabs on each other's teams. I knew they were going to be solid with a lot of athletes. I'm really proud of Nate and DL because I think they're building something that will last."
ALEXANDRIA 57 36 - 93
DETROIT LAKES 29 24 0 53
SCORING- DETROIT LAKES- Nate Cihak 22, Chris Breeden 2, Mason Omberg 3, Mason Carrier 10, Brandton Marsh 2, Oliver Quam 5, Caeden Yliniemi 2, Ethan Carrier 3; ALEXANDRIA- Carter Steffensmeier 20, Myles Sansted 16, Kristen Hoskins 21, Erik Hedstrom 9, Wyatt Odland 3, Grayson Grove 11, Jaxon Schoenrock 3, Peter Sansted 3, Turner Haar 2, Elijah Vanderveer 2, Dawson Roderick 3