The Alexandria boys’ basketball team has had its share of tough losses this season. Last Friday night, the Cardinals got a win that indicates they are capable of putting those games behind them.
Alexandria’s 59-54 win in Moorhead came against a 13-7 Spuds team that had already handed the Cardinals their most lopsided loss of the season on November 30. I was at that game and Moorhead was able to do whatever it wanted offensively on its way to a 69-42 win on Alexandria’s home court.
That wasn’t the case on Friday night as the Cardinals held Moorhead to its second lowest point total of the season. Star forward Aaron Lien had a game-high 31 points but only six players scored in all. Austin Nelson, who had 21 the first time these two teams met, was held to just six in the rematch.
“Defensively, the kids executed our game plan very well in two critical areas – defending ball screens and cleaning up the defensive glass,” Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said on Monday. “As we approach the end of our regular season, we like the progress we’ve made.”
The Cardinals’ defensive effort has been the primary reason Alexandria has rattled off four straight wins since a 56-54 loss to a 20-1 Brainerd team on February 8. Since then, the Cardinals have allowed just 45 points per game in wins over Bemidji, Morris Area, Sauk Rapids and Moorhead.
“Our attention to detail and understanding of player roles has been a positive mark over the past three weeks,” Witt said. “The kids have developed confidence in themselves and one another. It’s fun to see them rewarded with this recent success because for the most part, they have responded to the challenges and committed to remaining focused on getting better each day.”
It has also helps having junior guard John Vogeler healthy and back in the mix. He wasn’t in uniform in the season opener against the Spuds because of an ankle injury.
His presence was felt in the rematch as he hit four threes and led Alexandria with 18 points. Junior guard Brandon Bistodeau had a nice game with 15 points and three assists. David Krivanek added 12 points and Logan Doyle had eight points and 17 of his team’s 35 rebounds.
Vogeler had a positive approach when I talked to him after a close loss to Brainerd a couple weeks ago that dropped this team to 5-11. He said they were still confident in their ability to get things going in the right direction. The key would be cleaning up little things like taking charges and playing team defense to get important stops.
Credit this team for putting those words into action. Four straight wins, including a win over a team that beat them by 27 earlier in the season, seems to point toward the Cardinals playing their best basketball heading into the most important part of the year.
“It’s a heck of a long season,” Witt said. “The good teams find ways to weather the storm by improving and correcting the mistakes that can be corrected over the course of a season.”