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Vogeler expands his game

John Vogeler gets in front of the defense of St. Cloud Apollo for an easy bucket during the season opener on Tuesday night. Vogeler had a game-high 28 points to lead the Cardinals to a dramatic win over their Central Lakes Conference foes. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

There was a time when Alexandria’s John Vogeler was simply a three-point shooter for the Cardinal boys’ basketball team.

As a sophomore, he could get hot from anywhere and hit three or four threes in a row. That would leave defenses shaking their heads and gyms buzzing as he pulled up from sometimes four feet behind the three-point line.

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But those kinds of shots don’t lead to a lot of consistency on a nightly basis. He knew that and his coaches knew that. That’s why they put an emphasis on expanding his game. He made strides on that as a junior. Now as a senior, he looked like a well-rounded player who can beat teams in a multitude of ways as he went off for 28 points in a win over St. Cloud Apollo in the season opener.

“The coaches and me personally, we’ve really tried to change my game a little bit,” Vogeler said. “Not just be that three-point shooter; create my game in more areas.”

Vogeler was feeling it after a few early buckets in the second half on Tuesday night when he sized up his defender a few feet behind the three-point line. With the defense playing off him, he rose up and barely caught iron on the shot.

Vogeler knew it the second it left his hand. At the next dead ball, he looked over at head coach Forrest Witt and patted his chest while mouthing the words, “My bad.”

Vogeler didn’t take another questionable shot all night. Instead, he drove hard to the bucket at will against the Eagles, not settling for jump shots. Many of those came off his defense as he jumped passing lanes and got out in transition for a lot of easy buckets.

“That’s kind of been our emphasis with John since his sophomore year,” Witt said. “You look at John, he’s a great athlete, he’s strong and he’s got a good first step. Sometimes he gets a little bit lackadaisical, but I think he’s figured out where he’s going to be at his best. That’s attacking the rim first, getting into the lane, getting to the free throw line. Then he can shoot the basketball when they’re sagging off because he beat them to the bucket. He’s starting to see that more and more. We’ve seen that in practice, and I think he figured that out here tonight in our game.”

Never was it more evident than on his final bucket that gave Alexandria the win in a 72-71 game. Vogeler received the pass from a teammate after a missed free throw and never hesitated in sprinting the ball up-court.

He saw his defender was on his heels and attacked the rim. Vogeler got the ball to the middle of the floor before gliding to his right hand for the go-ahead layup.

“It’s a great feeling, but I can’t just do that by myself,” he said. “It’s a team effort. Everybody is passing the ball. They’re boxing out and looking up and making that pass and that’s how we get transition layups. We’re a great team. We’re doing great team work. The chemistry is great, and that’s not just me. I’m not doing it all by myself.”

Vogeler’s right about that. He’s part of a very experienced starting five that includes fellow guards Brandon Bistodeau and David Krivanek along with forward Chase Kohler and Joe Gorghuber.

This team needs Vogeler to be a leader of that group, and he seems to have figured out the best way to do that. His final shooting line against Apollo read 13-of-25. Just two of those makes were threes as he went 11-of-17 from inside the arc. That’s the kind of player he knows he needs to be to help this team on a more consistent basis.

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.

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