Cards move forward after Fergus lossFor the Alexandria boys’ basketball team, Tuesday night’s game against Sartell-St. Stephen could not come soon enough.
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
For the Alexandria boys’ basketball team, Tuesday night’s game against Sartell-St. Stephen could not come soon enough.
The Cardinals were coming off a disappointing loss at Fergus Falls just three days earlier that saw them blow a double-digit lead in the final minutes. That extended their losing streak to three games and left them eager to redeem themselves.
That is exactly what they did against the Sabres on Tuesday night. Alexandria kept Sartell at arm’s length for most of the night and Parker Giroux and Dan Gorghuber combined to go 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the final minute to secure the win.
“Luck kind of swung our way tonight,” Giroux said after scoring a game-high 23 points. “We got some shots to fall. I was really excited to come out and play. I thought we played better than Fergus Falls did there, but we didn’t come out with the win, so it was really fun to get out here and get another win.”
Alexandria played with a lot of energy from the get-go. Gorghuber established himself early by scoring the first five points of the game on a put-back and a three from the left wing. He went on to score 11 points in the first half as the Cardinals went into the break up by six.
“That’s just what we were talking about after the Fergus game is we need to come out and be aggressive,” he said. “We were hungry to get out and get a win.”
He and Giroux continued to cause fits for Sartell in the second half. Both had 17 points by the 10-minute mark. Gorghuber used his athleticism around the basket to gather two offensive rebounds that he put back up and in to extend his team’s lead to 11 points with 9:30 left in the game. He ended the night with 22 points to provide the second scoring option behind Giroux.
That is something this team knows it needs to establish on a consistent basis. Giroux has been able to get his points and set up teammates with penetration almost every night. When the Cardinals have put other players in double figures behind him, they have proven to be tough to beat this year.
“It’s very important,” Gorghuber said. “Teams are going to key on him. He’s our scorer, so it’s just important that we have some other guys step up. When he’s not hitting his shots, it’s important that we have teammates that can back him up…I think I can do that, but it’s definitely a team effort. I think any of us can do that on any given night.”
The Cardinals’ defensive effort made that offense hold up on a night when no other Alexandria player had more than five points. The Cardinals’ pressure made it difficult for Sartell to set up its offense. That energy also translated to the glass, where Alexandria outrebounded the Sabres by 15.
“We were just ready to get out there and be aggressive,” Gorghuber said. “Play in-their face defense. We kind of knew that they weren’t that great at ball handling, so we just wanted to get in their face and pressure them a bit and keep them off balance. It seemed to work for the most part.”
It helped them pick up a win that this team needed. Alexandria felt good about itself when it sat alone in second place with a 4-1 league mark after its win over Willmar on January 11. But three straight losses in league play dropped the Cardinals to the middle of the pack. Their 5-4 CLC record left them in fifth place after Tuesday night. It also left them searching for a way to explain the ups and downs of this season.
“I think we ran into some tough teams there,” Giroux said of his team’s recent skid. “We ran into Rocori, they’re a tough team. Apollo, they’re a good team. I thought we fought hard against both of those teams. Then we get up to Fergus, and I think we all thought going into that that we should win that game, but we lost it. I can’t really describe the streakiness, but we’re working hard and that’s all that counts.”
The ups and downs have not affected this team’s confidence. Giroux said he still feels the Cardinals can beat anyone in the league on a given night. Getting back in contention for a CLC title will be tough to do with St. Cloud Apollo sitting at 9-0. But that will not affect how this team enters each game heading down the stretch.
“That was our goal right from the beginning was to be at the top [of the CLC],” Gorghuber said. “But if we’re not there, we still want to be playing our best ball right at the playoffs. That’s our goal is to be playing at the top toward the end of the season, and I think we can continue to do that.”
SARTELL 20 31 – 51
ALEXANDRIA 26 34 – 60
ALEXANDRIA – Giroux – 23 points; Gorghuber – 22 points; Eric Carlsen – 2 points; Austin Storm – 2 points; Chris Curry – 4 points; Dylan Galligan – 5 points; A.J. Anderson – 2 points
SARTELL – Andy Kutz – 4 points; Tom Bearson – 5 points; Shawn Heinen – 6 points; Patrick Fischer – 11 points, 6 rebounds; Tim Immelman – 9 points; AJ Frank – 5 points; Jordan Gieske – 11 points, 9 rebounds