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Cards face first bit of adversity

Senior Chase Kohler glides to the basket over the defense of Big Lake’s Austin Poe during the second half of Alexandria’s 79-67 loss to the Hornets on Saturday. Kohler had 20 points in two games late last week. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Alexandria boys’ basketball team is getting its first taste of adversity this season after back-to-back early leads disappeared in losses to Sartell and Big Lake late last week.

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The Cardinals (3-2) led by seven after a quick start against the Hornets on Saturday night before Big Lake pulled away for a 79-67 win. That came after Sartell handed the Cardinals their first loss in Central Lakes Conference play on Friday in a 64-60 game on the road.

“We have to regroup coming into practice Monday,” senior forward Chase Kohler said after the loss on Saturday. “We just got to come ready to play. These last two games, I feel we didn’t come ready to play. This game we did come to play but it fell apart at the end of the first half.”

The Hornets were able to carry a 45-30 lead into the break after Alexandria went cold over its final 10 possessions of the half. The Cardinals’ only points during that stretch came from the free throw line as Big Lake overcame a bit of a slow start to take full control.

“We knew Big Lake was a good basketball team and they were going to make runs,” head coach Forrest Witt said. They have several guys who are capable of doing many things on the court. We went nine possessions scoreless and we scored one possession with a free throw in our last 10 possessions of the half. That all ties into us having to be very, very good defensively, and we weren’t. Now it becomes a 15 point lead in a hurry.”

Alexandria was able to cut it back down to a nine-point deficit early in the second half. Big Lake always had an answer, though. The Hornets responded by pushing the pace and getting a lot of easy buckets in the paint. Even in their half-court offense, they were able to get into the paint with dribble penetration and by making the extra pass to cutters.

“We weren’t very good off the dribble,” Witt said. “Then they got us on some back screens with their offense. We just didn’t do a good job cutting off dribble drives and some basket cuts, and it led to some easy ones for them.”

The Cardinals couldn’t counter enough on offense to keep up. Alexandria shot 51 percent from inside the arc, but the Cardinals settled for 22 threes, hitting just five of them. John Vogeler led Alexandria with 12 points, but shot 2-of-8 from three and 4-of-15 overall.

Joe Gorghuber added 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while also grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. David Krivanek had nine points and Brandon Bistodeau finished with eight. Kohler had 15 points and six rebounds to lead Alexandria against Sartell a night earlier.

Both Gorghuber and Kohler, who are listed at 6’3” and 6’4”, respectively, have the responsibility of guarding guys who will be a little bigger than them in the post this season. That’s been an adjustment for a team that has been able to rely on a rim protector like Logan Doyle that past couple years.

“It’s a lot different because we had Doyle last year and we normally didn’t guard these guys,” Kohler said. “But I’ve been guarding bigger guys my whole life and so has Joe. We just have to stay confident and work hard. Get them out of the paint and up higher.”

The Cardinals have plenty of opportunities to put these two losses behind them before Christmas break. They were scheduled to be back home against Little Falls last night, Tuesday, before going to Detroit Lakes on Friday and returning home to face New Prague on Saturday.

“We got to stay positive, but we also have to realize what happened and why are we allowing teams to go on runs,” Witt said. “Why are we putting ourselves in the situation that we are and how can we improve it? There should be some frustration, but we need to learn how to channel that in the right way, too. Use your energy to go get a rebound or make a good, hard screen or run the floor hard instead of hanging your head, making a quick shot and things of that nature.”

GAME STATISTICS Big Lake 79, Alexandria 67

ALEXANDRIA TOTALS – FG – 28-67; Three-point FG – 5-22; FT – 6-9; Assists – 16; Blocks – 4; Rebounds – 33; Steals – 6; Turnovers – 15

ALEXANDRIA – Grant Toivonen – 3 points, 1 steal; Bistodeau – 8 points, 4 assists, 1 block; Ben Corson – 6 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Vogeler – 12 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds; Gorghuber – 11 points, 3 assists, 8 rebounds; Travis Krueger – 2 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds; Krivanek – 9 points, 4 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals; Tyler Owen – 4 points, 1 assist, 1 block, 5 rebounds; Blake Stockert – 5 points, 2 rebounds; Kohler – 5 points, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 2 rebounds; Jeremiah Burnham – 2 points, 1 rebound

SARTELL 29 35 – 64

ALEXANDRIA 25 35 – 60

ALEXANDRIA TOTALS – FG – 24-59; Three-point FG – 6-25; FT – 6-17; Assists – 10; Rebounds – 31; Steals – 12; Turnovers – 12

ALEXANDRIA – Bistodeau – 12 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 3 steals; Vogeler – 10 points, 3 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals; Gorghuber – 5 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals; Krueger – 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Krivanek – 10 points, 1 assist, 8 rebounds; Owen – 1 assist, 4 rebounds; Stockert – 3 points; Kohler – 15 points, 1 assist, 6 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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