8AAA boys basketball: Alex advances behind Kohler's five second-half threes
The Alexandria boys’ basketball team has four seniors in the starting lineup, and they certainly didn’t want to go out by losing to seventh-seeded Little Falls during the program's last game ever played at Jefferson High School.
The Cardinals were in danger of doing that on Tuesday night before senior forward Chase Kohler caught fire from deep to lead a comeback that propelled Alexandria to a 64-55 win in the Section 8AAA quarterfinals. Kohler hit five of the Cardinals’ seven threes after halftime and scored all of his game-high 19 points to help his team erase a four-point deficit at the half.
“I just felt like I should step up,” Kohler said. “[Assistant coach Tom] Miller said at halftime, catch it in rhythm and shoot it. Everyone was hesitating, so I just stepped up and starting stroking them. I love spot-up shooting. That’s when I can go and really start knocking them down.”
Kohler wasn’t alone on a night when Alexandria put three players in double figures. Senior guard John Vogeler had 16 points. Fellow senior David Krivanek had 11 and junior Joe Gorghuber added eight points.
“It comes down to teams are going to try and take John and Brandon [Bistodeau] away,” head coach Forrest Witt said. “We just have to have guys step up and play. John and Brandon didn’t play their best games offensively, and somebody else had to step up and that was Chase tonight. David hit a couple big threes for us, as well. It relieved some pressure from our defensive side too because every possession, while it’s still important, just from a mental standpoint you just have a little more confidence because you made a basket.”
Those same shots weren’t falling in the first half when Alexandria scored just 16 points. The players admitted they came out a little nervous, and it showed. Little Falls was able to slow the game down, holding the Cardinals to just 20 possessions. That changed in the second half as Alexandria started to play at a more comfortable pace on its way to 32 possessions.
“We came out the first half a little stiff, a little tight,” Krivanek said. “Defense I think has been good all year, but we got in at halftime and said something’s got to change. It’s now or never boys, let’s go. It got a little chippy in that locker room, but whatever it takes to get each other going.”
Those nerves started to lift a little bit once a few shots started to fall. The Cardinals trailed by six before Kohler hit back-to-back threes from the corner on consecutive possessions to tie the game. The 6’4” forward hit three more and Krivanek and Vogeler each added a three as well.
Kohler’s fifth three gave his team a 42-36 lead with 6:41 left. The Cardinals stretched things out from there to secure their spot in the section semifinals on Saturday.
“It helps so much,” Krivanek said of Kohler boosting the confidence of the whole team once he got on that role. “I think we got three, four guys who can just go off like that on any given night, and it helps a bunch when one of us does. When one of us makes one, I think we all get some momentum going.”
Their reward is a matchup with third-seeded Albany at St. Cloud State University this Saturday at 3:45 p.m. The Huskies are 21-5 now after beating sixth-seeded Thief River Falls 61-55 on Tuesday night in their opening-round game of the tournament.
The Cardinals were in the section semifinals last season and came up short. A lot of these same players were contributors to that team, and they hope to write a different ending this time around.
“It’s kind of a new situation this year,” Kohler said. “We had [Logan] Doyle last year. We counted on him quite a bit to win the game. This year we all know our own roles, and we all step up. If we have confidence in each other, I feel like we can beat anybody.”