A spirited rally for the Alexandria boys’ basketball team came up a little short in a 61-50 loss to second-seeded Austin in the AAA quarterfinals at Williams Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
Austin used an 8-0 run within the first two minutes of the second half to take a 16-point lead. The Cardinals battled back from there, cutting their deficit to just one point at 43-42, but were never able to take a lead as Austin put the game away down the stretch.
“We’re very proud of the kids and what they’ve done for Alexandria basketball,” head coach Forrest Witt said. “It’s something special.”
The Packers came into the game with three players averaging double figures and all three of those guys led the way against Alexandria. Zach Wessels shot 9-of-15 and had a game-high 23 points. Fellow guard Ajuda Nywesh added 15 points and Bret Lukes had 10.
Nywesh and Wessels both got hot in the first half to carry the Packers to a 29-21 lead at the break. Wessels had 12 points and Nywesh hit three triples on his way to 11 points in the first 18 minutes.
The Packers used their 1-2-2 zone to pressure the Cardinals into seven turnovers in the first half and 29 percent shooting from the field. Alexandria finished the game shooting 15-of-49 for 31 percent.
Senior guards John Vogeler and Brandon Bistodeau had 13 and 11 points, respectively, to lead the Cardinals. Joe Gorghuber and Travis Krueger each had seven, while David Krivanek added six.
“We’re disappointed but you got to look back,” Bistodeau said. “We [lost eight of nine games] in the middle of the season. We’ve come such a long ways since then. There’s not much to be ashamed of. They were runner-up in state last year.”
Alexandria didn’t quit after the fast start to the second half for Austin. The Cardinals broke the Packers’ 1-2-2 pressure by not letting it get set up. They got out on the break and scored some easy buckets in the midst of a 21-6 run that was culminated by two free throws from Vogeler that made it 43-42.
The Packers had one more run in them. Lukes converted a three-point play with a layup and a free throw after the two teams exchanged a few scoreless possessions. That was the beginning of a 7-0 run for the Packers that let them stretch the lead out in the end.
“I thought we responded well,” Witt said of being down 16 early in the second half. “They made two key runs in the game and we made one. It just proved to be a little bit too much…to be down 16 to a team of that caliber, it says a lot about our kids that they weren’t going to quit.”
It was a bittersweet ending to the season for this Alexandria team. The Cardinals wrapped up the year with a 15-12 record and were playing their best basketball at the end of the year. They followed that stretch of eight losses in nine games by winning 11 of their final 15.
“I’m just happy for the kids, first and foremost,” Witt said of where his team finished. “I’m happy for our basketball program, for the school of Alexandria, for the community because a lot of people had a very positive experience through this whole thing.”
The Cardinals gave themselves a shot to get one more and secure a spot in the semifinals. That didn’t quite happen, but the players and coaches felt they could hold their heads high after being one of just eight teams in the AAA field to earn a spot in the state tournament.
“We’ll have these memories for the rest of our lives,” Vogeler said. “It was a great opportunity to be here. We lost but you look back, and we had a great season. We accomplished a lot of our goals. It’s kind of hard to swallow, but we got here, and that was our goal. We’re not satisfied losing, but we’re still pleased we came here.”
ALEXANDRIA 21 29 – 50
AUSTIN 29 32 – 61
TOTALS – Alexandria – FG – 15-49; FT – 15-20; Three-point FG – 5-22; Rebounds – 35; Assists – 7; Turnovers – 11; Blocks – 5; Steals – 3; Austin – FG – 20-49; FT – 18-22; Three-point FG – 3-16; Rebounds – 32; Assists – 3; Turnovers – 7; Blocks – 2; Steals – 8
ALEXANDRIA – Bistodeau – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Vogeler – 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals; Gorghuber – 7 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks; Krivanek – 6 points; Chase Kohler – 3 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks; Kris Setterstrom – 1 point, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Krueger – 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist; Tyler Owen – 2 points, 4 rebounds
AUSTIN – Lukes – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals; Nywesh – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals; Wessels – 23 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals; Gach Gach – 5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 steals; Oberbroeckling – 4 points, 5 rebounds; Nik Gasner – 2 rebounds; Noah Brehmer – 4 points, 4 rebounds