Junior guard John Vogeler said that things still don’t feel quite right after his second game back from an ankle injury last night. But the fact that he’s finally back is a step in the right direction for Alexandria.
The 6’3″ sharpshooter showed flashes of what he’s capable of in a 66-60 loss to Willmar. He showed off his range by hitting two deep threes in the second half as Alexandria and Willmar were jockeying back-and-forth in a close game. Vogeler finished with 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
“It’s not like last year, that’s for sure,” he said of how he felt. “I’m just not quite used to the game and the motions and how fast the tempo is right now. That’s why I was rushing shots and missing shots, but I think I should get better.”
Even with him back in the lineup, Alexandria fell victim to an all-too familiar script last night. Willmar got out to a 9-2 lead and took a 31-26 advantage into the break.
The home Cardinals showed an ability to battle back in the second half. They got two big dunks from Logan Doyle, including one on a lob from Chase Kohler where Doyle went up and caught the ball at its highest point with one hand before throwing it down to make it a 46-46 game.
One would think that would be the spark Alexandria needed to grab control of the momentum. Instead, it was Willmar that responded with a 9-1 run to take a 55-47 lead with 4:25 left. The Cardinals got back to within three on two David Krivanek free throws in the closing seconds. On the ensuing in-bounds, Willmar’s Austin Rambow got loose on a run-out as he put the game away with two of his game-high 24 points on an easy lay-up.
“From the beginning of the season, we’ve improved,” Krivanek said after finishing with a team-high 17 points. “Every single game, except for that Moorhead game, we’re right there. We just got to finish it out.”
Krivanek is right about Alexandria being in almost every game this season. Five of the Cardinals seven losses have come by single digits. The Cardinals have had their chances in the second half of all those games but haven’t been able to close them out.
“It’s not always down the stretch,” Vogeler said. “It should be through the whole game. We got to be executing plays right, we got to be knowing what our roles are. That’s got to be throughout the game. If we do that throughout the game, we should have no problems closing games.”
Having Vogeler back in the mix should only help that as this team tries to overcome its slow start. The Cardinals had high hopes coming into this season and 3-7 overall and 1-4 in the Central Lakes Conference isn’t what they had in mind. They have 14 games left in the regular season to try and turn things around before playoffs.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the start,” Krivanek said. “But I know we’re going to get better. We’ve been getting better. We’ve just got to get going.”