Staying the course
The Alexandria boys’ basketball team is using this current stretch of its schedule to get back on track after falling into a slump that featured a five-game losing streak recently.
The Cardinals knew they needed to regroup and gather a few wins to help get things going in the right direction again. Alexandria has done that with three straight wins, the most recent coming in a 57-46 game against Rocori on Tuesday night.
“We’ve had a tough stretch here in late December and into early January,” head coach Forrest Witt said after beating the Spartans. “We were playing some tough teams, and we just had to stay disciplined and stay true to what we’re trying to do. That’s defend every possession and not have as many breakdowns as we were having. Then get quality shots on the offensive end because it’s much easier to make a basket when teams have to defend three reversals, four reversals, hard screens.”
The Cardinals knew this was an opportunity to build a little momentum with three teams with losing records on their schedule. Alexandria got things started with a road win over 5-9 Moorhead on January 18 and followed that up with a dominant win over Sauk Rapids-Rice (0-16) and now a victory over Rocori (1-15) that moved the Cardinals back to .500 in the Central Lakes Conference at 5-5.
“All those games are huge for us,” senior guard John Vogeler said. “We have the momentum now going into the second half of the season with this three-game win streak. The schedule is not going to get any easier, which it really helps us that we have these three games under our belt. We’re gaining some confidence heading into these tough games.”
Vogeler helped Alexandria overcome Rocori with a game-high 25 points to go along with eight rebounds. That came after he put up 21 points and Brandon Bistodeau and Joe Gorghuber added 13 and 11 points, respectively, in a 66-38 win over Sauk Rapids on Monday.
Vogeler shot 10-of-20 from the field against Rocori, including a 4-of-8 night from three. David Krivanek added eight points. Tyler Owen had six and Gorghuber and Travis Krueger each finished with five as the Cardinals shot 42 percent as a team against the Spartans.
It was their defense that had Witt more excited after the game. Alexandria was giving up an average of 61.1 points per game coming into the contest, but held Rocori to 14 points below that. The Spartans shot just 37 percent (17-of-45) and went 0-for-7 from behind the arc.
“That’s what this team really thrives on is getting defensive stops,” Gorghuber said. “Getting out on the floor so we can get out and run and get quick fast-break layups. That’s what we thrive on.”
The defensive effort helped them keep Rocori at an arm’s length all night on Tuesday. The Spartans trailed by just four with 6:30 left in the half before Alexandria went on a 13-5 run into the break.
Bistodeau knifed through the lane and found Chase Kohler for a layup right before the buzzer to cap that off. The Cardinals never looked back from there as they made the plays to make sure Rocori never got it back within single digits. Closing out the Spartans like that was a nice step for a team that has seen five of its eight losses decided by eight points or fewer.
“A lot of games we are up at halftime and we just let it slip away,” Vogeler said. “Now we’ve been finishing and that’s why we’ve been winning. We’ve been coming together really well as a team these last few games and the result is we get the win.”
The focus of this group right now is on continuing that improvement as the Cardinals pulled to within .500 at 7-8.
“Just get better,” Gorghuber said. “A lot of teams we play twice around the year, and it’s a good goal for us to see how we’ll match up against them the second time around.”
The Cardinals have a chance to do that tonight when they welcome in Fergus Falls for their second matchup of the season. Alexandria beat the Otters 78-64 on December 10. Fergus Falls has rebounded from a five-game losing streak earlier this season to improve to 9-6 with six wins in the last seven games. The Otters’ only loss during that stretch came in two overtimes against Brainerd on Tuesday night.
“They got a great program and they’ve had some nice wins,” Witt said of the Otters. “They’re a young team and now at this point of the season a lot of people wouldn’t consider them young because they’ve got  games under their belt. They have some basketball players and young kids who want to get better and they are.”
It will be a good opportunity for an Alexandria team that wants to continue proving that it too is improving as the season goes along.
ALEXANDRIA 32 25 – 57
ROCORI 21 25 – 46
TOTALS – Alexandria – FG – 23-54; FT – 6-8; Three-point FG – 5-12; Assists – 10; Rebounds – 31; Steals – 7; Turnovers – 12; Rocori – FG – 17-45; Three-point FG – 0-7; FT – 12-18; Rebounds – 25
ALEXANDRIA – Bistodeau – 4 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds; Vogeler – 25 points, 1 assist, 1 block, 8 rebounds, 2 steals; Gorghuber – 5 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals; Krueger – 5 points; Krivanek – 8 points, 5 rebounds; Owen – 6 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds; Kohler – 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal
Alexandria 66, Sauk Rapids-Rice 38
TOTALS – Alexandria – FG – 26-66; Three-point FG – 2-11; FT – 12-19; Assists – 12; Blocks – 3; Rebounds – 29; Steals – 16; Turnovers – 13; Sauk Rapids-Rice – FG – 15-37; Three-point FG – 4-9; FT – 4-7; Rebounds – 22
ALEXANDRIA – Bistodeau – 13 points, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Kris Setterstrom – 2 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals; Ben Corson – 2 points, 1 rebound; Vogeler – 21 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds, 6 steals; Gorghuber – 11 points, 1 assist, 5 rebounds, 2 steals; Krueger – 2 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds; Jaran Roste – 1 rebound; Krivanek – 6 points, 3 rebounds; Owen – 1 assist, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Blake Stockert – 1 point, 1 rebound; Kohler – 8 points, 3 assists, 1 block, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; John Oberg – 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal