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Chris Murphy, Published March 06 2014

Fergus Falls goes down in section title game for third year in a row

MOORHEAD – Alexandria was up 15 points with 1 minute, 22 seconds to go in Thursday’s Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 boys basketball title game at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse. Senior John Vogeler tipped a Fergus Falls’ pass, sprinted the length of the court, dove for the ball and called a timeout before sliding out of bounds.

The Cardinals had their first section title since 2002 wrapped up and Vogeler already had 28 points, but there was a simple reason why he was throwing himself at the ball in the closing minutes.

“I just wanted it,” said Vogeler, who scored a game-high 30 points in Alexandria’s 69-50 win. “I don’t know. I just wanted it. And I grabbed it.”

The senior grabbed hold of Thursday’s game and never let go, as Fergus Falls fell in the section championship for the third straight season. After the game, Otters coach Dave Rund wasn’t talking about Vogeler’s 19 first-half points, the three 3-pointers from college range he sank, or his seven rebounds. He talked about him diving for a loose ball with nothing at stake.

“The deep 3s is one thing, but how about the play he makes on the diving ball with his team up 15 and he’s already scored 28 points?” Rund said. “He just said, ‘We’re going to state, and I’m going to make a statement.’ What a fitting ending to a great career for him.”

Fergus Falls (14-13) has had celebrations within grasp the last two seasons, but not with arms raised.

The Otters watched last season as a putback at the buzzer sent Sartell-St. Stephen to the Class 3A state tournament for the first time in 44 years. In 2012, after a tying Otters’ 3-point attempt fell short, they watched a sea of Detroit Lakes fans storm the court to celebrate the Lakers’ first trip to state since 1918.

Thursday wasn’t quite the heartbreaker as the last two, but the size of the loss doesn’t change the sting.

“It never is easy,” Rund said. “All three teams had a different identity and different obstacles to get through. Anytime that you can work for four months and get yourself one game away, at the end of the day, you feel good about the program.”

With Rund for all three of the losses has been his son Austin. Austin had 22 points and seven rebounds for Fergus Falls on Thursday and will go out as the leading rebounder in school history. Thursday’s loss, however, will be hard to rebound from for the senior.

The tears couldn’t be held back for either Rund, as Dave went from coach to father, embracing his son after the game.

“Austin and I have been together for all three of these and came up short each time,” Dave Rund said. “He knows how bad I want to get our team to state, and I know how bad he wants it. I told him I love him, and he’s been a great role model for our future Otters.”

Fergus Falls never led after the game’s first eight points. Vogeler had 19 first-half points to take a 34-20 lead into the break for Alexandria (15-11). The Cardinals opened the second half with a 7-2 run to push it to 41-22. The Otters got within 43-35 thanks to Austin Rund and Isaiah Lemke, who finished with 14 points, but the Cardinals answered with a 12-0 run to shut the door.

“The offseason starts tomorrow,” Dave Rund said. “We’re going to have to find a way to get back here again next year.”

F (14-13): Pearson 2 0-0 5, Western 2 0-0 5, Lemke 5 3-5 14, Rund 7 8-8 22, Schneck 1 0-0 2, Monke 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 11-15 50.

A (15-11): Bistodeau 4 6-6 15, Vogeler 10 7-7 30, Gorghuber 4 0-0 8, Krivanek 2 2-2 6, Kohler 1-3 2-2 4, Krueger 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 24 17-17 69.

Halftime: A 34, F 20. 3-pointers: Pearson 1, Western 1, Lemke 1, Bistodeau 1, Vogeler 3. Total fouls: F 14, A 15. Rebounds: F 20 (Rund 7), A 30 (Vogeler 7).

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548