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Thriller goes Cards’ way

Joe Gorghuber drives into the contact of Apollo’s Jack Atkinson during the first half of Tuesday’s win over the Eagles. Gorghuber had two points, four assists, five rebounds and four steals to help Alexandria overcome a late deficit and beat the Eagles. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Alexandria boys’ basketball team is emphasizing a team approach this season but it never hurts to get a couple great individual performances.

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The Cardinals got that in the season opener on Tuesday night as they overcame a six-point deficit with almost 40 seconds left in overtime to shock visiting St. Cloud Apollo.

“We got a timeout and I don’t know who addressed it, but we just had to play mentally sound and execute our plays,” senior co-captain John Vogeler said after scoring 21 points after halftime for a game-high 28. “Lock up on defense and just push that extra distance to go even harder and make that basket, make the extra pass, get on the floor, box out, do those little things and that’s what happens, we win just by doing those little things.”

It also took a few big shots by Vogeler himself. He made it a 71-68 game with 36.9 seconds left on a three from the right wing. Joe Gorghuber responded with a steal on the ensuing inbounds and went up for the shot under the hoop. It bounced off the glass, but senior guard Brandon Bistodeau was there to tip it up and in.

“Just help teammates out,” Bistodeau said. “It’s just something that we do. Joe misses and I put it back. That’s what we do for each other.”

That bucket made the comeback feel all the more realistic to the Cardinals and Apollo. The Eagles turned the ball over three times in a span of almost 15 seconds in the final minute and missed the front end of a one-and-one while still leading by a point.

That rebound deflected long as players scrambled for the ball. Alexandria came up with it and got the ball to Vogeler, who shot up the court. He noticed his defender on his heels and took the ball right to the hoop for a transition lay-up that proved to be the game winner.

It was part of a dominant stretch for Vogeler. He had seven points at the break and wasn’t attacking the rim as aggressively. That changed in the second half as he poured in 21 points. Bistodeau was also impressive, finishing with 18 points after having just three at the break.

“I had a slow first half. So did John, I think,” Bistodeau said. “But we want to be leaders on this team. We just want to fight, don’t want to lose and we won. It’s great. It’s real fun. We haven’t had it in a long time. It’s going to be a good time in the locker room.”

The Cardinals’ defense was instrumental in erasing a seven-point deficit at the half. Alexandria upped its pressure and played the passing lanes well. The end result was 14 steals on the night, which led to a lot of easy buckets in transition.

“Our defense was great,” Vogeler said. “Maybe not great but pretty dang good in the second half compared to the first half. We just tried to pick it up. That’s what causes those steals.”

Up and down is how Alexandria wants to play this season with a group of experienced guards back and no true center in the post. Senior forward Chase Kohler and junior Joe Gorghuber worked hard to contain Apollo’s impressive duo of Ethan Novacinski and Jeremy Koffi, but their size took over at times during the night. Novacinski (6’5”) finished with 25 points and the 6’4” Koffi added 18.

“Everybody knows we don’t have [Logan] Doyle this year so we have to adjust to missing that big body down low,” Vogeler said. “We have to rebound as a team, box out your guy and get to loose balls. Work as hard as possible to get that rebound. I thought we picked it up in the second half. We didn’t do a great job of it, but I think we did a better job than the first half and that helped us get the win.”

It might have been just one win, but it felt like a big one to the players who watched a lot of close games go the other way a year ago.

“It was big,” head coach Forrest Witt said. “I think you could really tell in that first half and for sure that first 10-12 minutes, we were forcing things on the offensive end and turning it over. Then we settled in. I think their experience really took over with our perimeter all being back, as well as Joe and Chase having started much of last season.”


APOLLO 33 29 9 – 71

ALEXANDRIA TOTALS – FG – 30-71; Three-point FG – 7-21; FT – 5-12; Rebounds – 35; Assists – 16; Steals – 14; Turnovers – 17

ALEXANDRIA – Bistodeau – 18 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals; Vogeler – 28 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds; Gorghuber – 2 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals; Travis Krueger – 4 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds; David Krivanek – 7 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 steal; Tyler Owen – 5 points, 2 rebounds; Blake Stockert – 3 points, 1 rebound; Kohler – 5 points, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 3 rebounds

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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