Alexandria boys’ basketball coach Forrest Witt was searching for consistent effort out of his players after a 7-9 Fergus Falls team came in and beat the Cardinals 63-47 on their home court on Tuesday night.
“Sadly, I think they wanted it more,” he said after his team fell to 2-6 in the Central Lakes Conference. “To put it very bluntly, they outworked us. They took it to us on our defensive end. Offensively, we did some decent things, but just watching them, it seemed like they got after it and were on the loose balls, just did the little things.”
The Otters played with the confidence and energy of a team much better than their record indicates. Austin Rund and Jackson McCallister each had 10 points in the first half on their way to a 36-23 lead at the break.
The second half belonged to Mike Millard. The 6’4″ junior just went over the 1,000-point mark against Sauk Rapids-Rice two games ago. He was dominant after halftime, knifing to the basket on his way to a game-high 29 points.
Most of Millard’s points came in the paint on a night when the Otters got a lot of easy looks around the basket. That allowed Fergus Falls to hold Alexandria at bay throughout the night. The Cardinals got it as close as eight on a Logan Doyle dunk in the second half, but a three-point play by Millard pushed the deficit back to 14 with 1:36 left, ending any hopes of an Alexandria comeback.
“The kids have to understand that when you take the court, you have to play hard,” Witt said. “That doesn’t mean just running around with your head cut off. You have to execute, too. Communicating and getting on the floor, setting hard screens. They are all mental things that you should be able to do. The shots aren’t always going to fall, but you need to control the things that you can control, and that’s something that you can do every single night.”
That was the one thing Witt wanted his players to understand going forward. If the effort’s there, he believes the team has the talent to win a few games and gain some momentum down the stretch.
“We’ll get it turned around,” Witt said. “If guys don’t want to move forward with what we’re doing then they won’t see the floor, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. We know what we have to do, and the kids just need to receive that message and get after it.”