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Alexandria boys basketball defeats Minneapolis South in Class 3A quarterfinal

The Cardinals held off a late Tiger rally to advance in the Minnesota boys high school basketball state tournament

MINNEAPOLIS — The No. 3-seed Alexandria Cardinals defeated the Minneapolis South Tigers 72-70 in the MSHSL Class 3A boys basketball quarterfinals at Williams Arena. 

Alexandria's forward duo of Chase Thompson and Grayson Grove, who are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, respectively, proved to be too much for the undersized Tigers to contain. 

"I thought [Thompson] and [Grove] were huge inside," Alexandria coach Forrest Witt said. "We had a big size advantage, and when we got them the ball we were really affective and creating double teams."

Grove, a University of Minnesota commit, finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Thompson had 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Cardinals out-rebounded the Tigers 39-21.

"With these two monsters in there, we usually out-rebound teams," Witt said. 

Minneapolis South contained the two big men, as much as possible, in the first half. The Cardinals and Tigers went into halftime tied at 40. 

"The biggest thing for us—I don’t know how many turnovers we had—it was just getting settled into an area where we could enter the ball and be effective," Witt said. "They had us out of rhythm. … We just struggled to get in that 19-foot area where now we can attack and get going."

Minneapolis South's leader and senior guard Poet Davis led the Tigers with 15 points at halftime, and the Tigers were 6-for-11 from 3-point range. Davis finished with 23 points.

But when the shooting dried up, the Tigers had a hard time with the Cardinals' zone defense and Groves and Thompson.

"It was hard penetrating because they pinched a lot, but we had some success with dump offs in the short corners," Davis said. "… After a while they just started to shut all that down."

The Cardinals built a lead in the second half, but Minneapolis South went on an 11-2 run to bring the game within one point with one minute remaining. 

"These guys don’t understand what the word quit means," Minneapolis South head coach Joe Hyser said. "That’s why I’m so proud of them because that’s what we’ve done in the past."

Minneapolis South had a possession with seven seconds remaining down by one points, but when Stewart Scott drove to the inside and shot, Thompson blocked his shot, and the Cardinals won the game moments later.

For Minneapolis South, it's the first state tournament team since 1992. Three seasons ago, Minneapolis South looked destined for a generational team, but eight players transferred to different schools. A handful of those players are playing in this year's state tournament, but with other schools. 

But Davis stayed, and he was rewarded with an opportunity to play in the state tournament. 

"When eight players left the program, he’s the one who had the faith and the charisma," Hyser said. "He went around inside the school and had recruited kids who had played their freshman and sophomore year. … He is someone who raises up all the people around him."

For Alexandria, they'll move on to play Mankato East in the Class 3A semifinals on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena.

"We’ll be ready and we’ll take it to them, hopefully, and we’ll play together," Grove said.

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- Jack Butler | | @Butler917