Dec. 28—ALEXANDRIA — When two teams are largely equal, Marty Carroll believes the more aggressive competitor is likely to come out on top.
His Alexandria Tigers proved their coach to be accurate, particularly in the second half Tuesday afternoon.
Alexandria snapped a four-game losing streak with an 82-73 win over Cascade in the second semifinal of the second annual Tigers Classic Invitational.
The Tigers will now face Sheridan (2-6) in the championship game at 8 p.m. after the Blackhawks held off a second-half comeback for a 58-55 win over South Central. Cascade (3-6) will play the Satellites at 6 p.m. in the consolation game.
A blistering first-half pace in which the teams combined for 53 first-quarter points gave way to a half-court second half. At the end of the game, Alexandria held a 31-30 rebound edge, and the teams had 12 turnovers each, but Carroll's Tigers repeatedly beat the Cadets by going to the basket.
"That's the longest that we've played well," he said. "We've had stretches where we've played well. We played well at Yorktown and in other games, but we played well longer today."
Braxton Pratt carried the offensive load early as he scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half, including a drive to the basket that sent the Tigers to intermission with a 49-42 lead.
Carroll expected the pace of the game Cascade would push, and his players — and his depth — responded well.
"We knew that they would play at that pace," he said. "We played eight people, and that probably helped also."
The second half belonged to junior Owen Harpe and sophomore Carson Cuneo as the duo repeatedly scored going to the basket.
Cascade opened the third quarter strong and on a 3-point basket from Jonas Johnson pulled within 59-56 of the Tigers.
But a Cuneo drive and Harpe free throw helped end the Cadets' surge, and Alexandria's team never dipped below the five-point advantage it held at 64-59 early in the fourth period. Cuneo scored eight points, and Harpe scored four during a 15-7 run with Chance Martin's 3-point basket capping the run with the Tigers on top 79-66, their largest lead of the game.
"I haven't been playing that well, so I needed to score," Cuneo said.
Cuneo matched Pratt for team honors with 19 points and added seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Harpe finished with 16 points, and Michael Martin was a fourth player in double figures with 11.
The losing streak Alexandria (3-5) ended Tuesday featured times when the Tigers played well for periods but not for the entire game and saw several late leads dissipate. Cuneo said this win was important for the young team's confidence and psyche.
"It was really big because we've choked away leads in the past," he said. "To play good the whole game was nice. We just wanted to take care of the ball and not turn it over late in the game."
Carroll said it was the way the team finished — scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter — that pleased him the most.
"A couple weeks ago, we would have lost that game in the fourth quarter because that's kind of what we had done," he said. "We had been playing not to lose instead of playing to win. ... It's hard to come back if someone is going to score 20 points in the fourth quarter."
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