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Boys basketball: Spann-Ford powers Tech past Cardinals

Alexandria's Justin Balcome meets St. Cloud Tech's Brevyn Spann-Ford at the rim in the first half on Tuesday. Balcome had 13 points and 11 rebounds, but Spann-Ford led the Tigers to the win with 27 points. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 5
Alexandria senior guard Jared Schneider goes up for two of his five points during Tuesday's game against St. Cloud Tech. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 5
St. Cloud Tech's Brevyn Spann-Ford finds teammate Trent Meyer (12) for an open look during Tuesday's game in Alexandria. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 5
Alexandria's Trey Hoepner knocks down a three during the second half on Tuesday. Hoepner hit four threes in the game, but the Cardinals fell to St. Cloud Tech by a 70-47 final. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)4 / 5
Alexandria's sophomore guard Carrson Jones gets past the defense of St. Cloud Tech's Brady Underwood in the second half on Tuesday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 5

St. Cloud Tech’s Brevyn Spann-Ford has a future on the football field with the University of Minnesota, but the Tigers’ senior forward showed he can do some things on the basketball court on Tuesday night.

Spann-Ford was too much to handle for Alexandria with his size and ability to get to the rim. He was aggressive in going to the bucket much of the night on his way to a game-high 27 points. Late in the game, he scored his 1,000th-career point as he reached a milestone and helped Tech to a 70-47 win over the Cardinals at AAHS.

“It’s honestly not really a big thing for me,” Spann-Ford said of reaching 1,000 career points. “It’s all about the team win. We want to have a good season this year, and this was just another step in that direction.”

Spann-Ford was matched up against his summer teammate from the Minnesota Comets AAU program in Alexandria’s Justin Balcome much of the night. Balcome is 6-feet, 10-inches, but Spann-Ford is one of the players in the Central Lakes Conference that can match that size with his 6-foot, 7-inch and nearly 230-pound frame.

Balcome said the toughest challenge of guarding him is trying to keep him from getting to the basket. He got there a lot on Tuesday as he frequently got the ball near the free-throw line and the top of the key before using his strength and athleticism to drive and score.

“Initially, we wanted to try to just keep him out the paint,” Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. “Sag and obviously be in help position. To his credit, he was more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him going to the basket. Obviously, at 6’7” and 225, 230 pounds, when he gets going and builds up a head of steam it’s tough to stop him. He’s a challenging matchup, especially when he’s aggressive like that.”

The Cardinals (0-2) led early in this one at 8-5 after a Jared Schneider three. The Tigers responded with a 13-0 run. They never trailed again as St. Cloud Tech (2-0) stretched things out after a quick start to the second half.

“I think as always, we played hard and to the best of our ability,” Balcome said. “Obviously, we have a lot to work on, and that’s something the coaches will do a great job of helping us out in practice on. Hopefully we can get them next time.”

Balcome had a team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Trey Hoepner added 12 points on four triples, while Michael Empting moved into the starting lineup and finished with eight points and four assists.

Alexandria shot 36-percent from the field (19-of-52), including 7-of-21 from three.

The Tigers got 11 points from senior Trent Meyer and 10 from fellow senior guard James Kaczor.

St. Cloud Tech was 22-6 a year ago and features five seniors in its starting lineup. This is a Tigers team that looks poised to challenge for the Central Lakes Conference championship, so the Cardinals knew it would be a big test for their young team early in the season.

“We knew we would need to be solid for 90, 95-percent of the ballgame, and we didn’t get that,” Witt said. “We were effective in portions of the game, but we weren’t able to sustain good offensive execution and defensive execution throughout.”

Balcome and Witt said gaining cohesion will take some time for Alexandria.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting more comfortable,” Balcome said. “Having a group of guys who haven’t played together for a couple years is always going to be tough when you try to bring them back together, especially at the varsity level. I think just a couple more games, couple more weeks of practice and we’ll be back on our feet ready to go.”

The Cardinals have more than a week to get some practice time in before their next game. They go on the road for the first time this season on Dec. 14 against Rocori before hosting Detroit Lakes on Dec. 16. Balcome is not worried at all about the morale of this team after a couple early losses.

“It’s a group that has always worked hard from the beginning of our careers when we were 5, 6 years old,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll come back to practice tomorrow and be ready to get after it.”

Witt echoed those sentiments. This is a team that needs to play extremely disciplined in executing their game plan, he said. He and the rest of this coaching staff will use a long stretch of practices before their next game as the Cardinals try to get going in the right direction.

“We’ll be fine,” Witt said. “We’re not quitting on this thing. This is a good group of kids who play hard. We just have to be extremely, extremely disciplined on both ends of the floor for a significant chunk of the game. Right now, we’re not doing that, but with more repetition and practice sessions, we’ll get there.

ST. CLOUD TECH     29 41 - 70

ALEXANDRIA           19 28 - 47

ALEXANDRIA TOTALS - FG - 19-52; Three-point FG - 7-21; FT - 2-3; Assists - 16; Blocks - 2; Rebounds - 28; Steals - 5; Turnovers - 15

ALEXANDRIA - Trey Hoepner - 12 points, 3 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Michael Kuhn - 3 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals; Michael Empting - 8 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, Carrson Jones - 1 assist, 1 rebound; Jared Schneider - 5 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds; Cameron Rice - 2 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Justin Balcome - 13 points, 1 rebounds, 2 blocks; Bryce Ludwig - 2 points; Derek Shulstad - 2 points, 1 rebound; Carter Stockert - 1 rebound

ST. CLOUD TECH SCORING - Brady Underwood - 8; Nate Trewick - 5; Brevyn Spann-Ford - 27; Kail Lindgren - 4; James Kaczor - 10; Trent Meyer - 11; Odier Olange - 5

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.

(320) 763-1229
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