Alexandria boys' basketball: Season opener goes to Spuds
It wasn't the start the Alexandria boys' basketball team was looking for last Friday night.
The Cardinals came into the night shorthanded with junior guard John Vogeler out after aggravating an ankle injury. Vogeler was expected back at the beginning of this week. It didn't help not having him on the court, but in all honesty, it wouldn't have mattered in the outcome. Not with the way Moorhead came out in the season opener for both teams.
The Spuds torched the nets from the get-go behind big nights from their senior captains. Aaron Lien finished with a game-high 30 points, while fellow senior forward Austin Nelson added 21 to carry Moorhead to a 69-42 win.
"We were very excited," Lien said about coming into the season opener. "I thought that we improved a lot over the summer, especially after losing five seniors from last year's team. We kind of developed some chemistry in the summer working with our team in the early mornings."
That chemistry showed from start to finish as the Spuds hit open shots from all over the court. Lien, a recent signee to Minnesota State University-Moorhead, said those quality looks stem from an unselfish mindset on this team. Moorhead made the extra pass all game, and it started with the Spuds' best player on the court.
"I think he's probably a top 15 player in the state," Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said of Lien. "You look at his game tonight and everything he did was in the flow of the offense. He made his teammates better. A really good player can do those things. It just comes and he doesn't force it. When the defense takes something away, he makes the right play."
Alexandria's Logan Doyle could never find that same kind of groove down on the block. Lien said Moorhead came into the night trying to frustrate the Cardinals' 6'8" forward by sending double teams at him every time he touched the ball.
That's nothing Doyle hasn't seen before. He was able to go baseline for a dunk on his first two points, but those shots around the basket were few and far between. Moorhead rarely let him catch the ball deep in the post and Doyle's jump hook wasn't falling as he finished with 12 points.
"Obviously it could have went a lot better," Doyle said. "Team wise, I think we forced a lot of shots, myself included. We took shots where we should have passed it around a couple more times. I just don't think we were ready to play. The inexperience really showed I think with a lot of guys in their first start. I think now that we got one under our belt, we should at least play a lot better."
Witt echoed that sentiment, saying the Cardinals needed to be more patient on offense. Junior guard David Krivanek had a nice night with 14 points after hitting a few open threes. Those are the kind of looks the Cardinals want to get on a consistent basis if opponents are going to send constant double teams at Doyle in the post.
"We just have to play within ourselves," Witt said. "We had some guys who just deviated and tried to do things on their own when things got a little bit tough. It really wasn't what they were doing so much. It was our inability to be disciplined."
The Cardinals have to get better quickly as they get set to jump right into their Central Lakes Conference schedule. Alexandria was at Sauk Rapids last night, Tuesday, before coming home for games against Fergus Falls and Sartell-St. Stephen on December 11 and 13, respectively.
Moorhead is hardly a bad loss on the schedule. The Spuds were a state tournament team in Class 4-A a year ago and feature two strong senior leaders in Lien and Nelson. They helped Moorhead run right past Alexandria in the opener. It's a loss the Cardinals can't let linger as they try to get off to a fast start in the CLC.
"If this doesn't give you motivation to go hard into your next game, nothing really will," Doyle said. "Losing by 27 is bad enough. Losing by 27 at home is embarrassing. You should never lose by that much at home."