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8AAA boys basketball: Cards secure their spot at state

The Alexandria boys' basketball team holds up its championship trophy after winning the Section 8AAA title on Thursday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)1 / 2
Alexandria's John Vogeler splits the defense of Fergus Falls' Matthew Monke (left) and Jake Western during the second half of Thursday night's Section 8AAA title game. Vogeler finished with a game-high 30 points. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)2 / 2

The Alexandria boys’ basketball team played what head coach Forrest Witt felt was their best game of the season on Thursday night and the reward is a trip to the Class AAA state tournament.

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The Cardinals never left much doubt in this one on their way to a 69-50 win over Fergus Falls in the 8AAA title game at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. John Vogeler had 30 points, including 19 in the first half. Fellow senior guard Brandon Bistodeau added 15 points as the Cardinals secured their first trip to the state tournament since 2002.

“It’s crazy,” Bistodeau said. “It’s just a dream come true. We’ve been dreaming about it all the time through basketball. All 14 years or however long we’ve been playing. I can’t even explain my emotions right now.”

Alexandria trailed 3-0 after the Otters’ first possession but didn’t take long to get going. Vogeler was in a zone that started by getting a couple quick three-point plays early on. He took the ball to the basket and took on the contact from the defense as he put it up and in before making the free throw both times.

He added a fade-away jumper from the right sideline before stepping out beyond the arc. Vogeler hit three triples in the first half and Bistodeau hit another as the Cardinals went 13-of-25 from the field to grab a 34-20 lead at the break. They ended up shooting 49 percent for the game (24-of-49).

“The coaches really emphasize with me, get to the rim. Don't settle for threes right away," Vogeler said. "Get myself going from inside out so those outside shots start coming easier. That's obviously what happened. Those and-ones really helped a lot thanks to the players who got me in that position. Brandon and David [Krivanek] and all my other teammates who pushed the ball looking for me, setting screens for me. It was just a great team win.”

The Cardinals had to withstand one big run by Fergus Falls in the second half. Alexandria led 39-22 after a Vogeler bucket, but the Otters responded by cutting that lead to eight with 9:39 to go.

That forced a Cardinals’ timeout, where they called for Bistodeau to use a ball screen near the top of the key and drive to the bucket. He executed it and put up a floater that made it a 10-point lead again. The senior point guard went on to score six points during a 12-0 run as the Cardinals built a 20-point lead and never looked back.

“I’m a senior,” Bistodeau said. “I did not want this to be my last game and lose here. I just took control, drove the ball and attacked the rim.”

Sometimes numbers don't tell the story, but they painted a pretty good picture tonight. Alexandria won the battle in almost every statistical category. The Cardinals shot 17-of-17 from the free throw line, outrebounded the Otters 30-20 and committed only seven turnovers themselves. They also made Austin Rund work for his 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting.

“I think it just shows that they’ve come a long way,” Witt said. “They have persevered through a tough part of the season where things were not pretty. We got on them, and we just needed to regroup because we knew this was possible if we were playing good basketball.”

Alexandria went through a stretch where it lost eight of nine games toward the middle of the season but got back to playing good basketball at the end. During it all, Vogeler said these players didn't stop believing in their ability to be a section contender come March.

"I think we had confidence the whole time," he said. "We knew we were a team to beat when everyone was playing their roles and all cylinders are clicking. We knew we could get here and we just locked in and played together. We were in this position and now we got it."

The Cardinals got in that position by everyone stepping up at certain points of this playoff run. Chase Kohler had just four points on Thursday, but he hit five threes and had 19 second-half points in the quarterfinals win over Little Falls. Next it was Gorghuber and Travis Krueger who had 19 and 15 points, respectively, in a win over Albany in the semifinals. Krivanek also scored in double figures in both of those games. In the title game, it was Vogeler and Bistodeau's turn to help lead the way.

"It's certainly not a one-man show by any means," Witt said. "Brandon took over during a certain stretch of that game and other guys contributed nicely when their opportunity was there. I thought we attacked very well, were poised and got shots that we wanted and most of them were high-percentage shots."

Witt said he was hard on this group during that stretch in the middle of the season where losses were starting to pile up because he knew they were capable of playing better. They showed that throughout the playoffs, and it culminated with probably their best game of the year in the section championship. Their reward is a trip to Williams Arena next Wednesday.

“Right when we were little, we were dreaming of this,” Vogeler said. “We finally captured our dreams. Thanks to all the coaches who put us in this position, our fans, all our teammates. We're just really happy."


FERGUS FALLS     20 30 - 50

ALEXANDRIA       34 35 - 69

TOTALS - Fergus Falls - FG - 18-41; Three-point FG - 3-11; FT - 11-15; Rebounds - 20; Assists - 8; Turnovers - 13; Alexandria - FG - 24-49; Three-point FG - 4-12; FT - 17-17; Rebounds - 30; Assists - 9; Turnovers - 7

FERGUS FALLS - Drew Pearson - 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Jake Western - 5 points; Isaiah Lemke - 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists; Rund - 22 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks; David Schneck - 2 points, 2 rebounds; Matthew Monke - 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Joel King - 3 rebounds

ALEXANDRIA - Bistodeau - 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists; Vogeler - 30 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals; Krivanek - 6 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal; Kohler - 4 points,  2 rebounds, 1 assist; Kris Setterstrom - 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Krueger - 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal

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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