The Alpena boys basketball team saved its best performance of the week for last.
Playing their third game in five nights, the Wildcats collected their sixth straight win with a 64-51 victory over Petoskey on Friday at Alpena High School.
That sort of stretch can be difficult for even the most experienced teams, but Alpena (14-4, 7-4 Big North) made it look easy en route to winning arguably its biggest game of the year against the league-leading Northmen.
Tyler Pintar led Alpena with 16 points, Luke Cordes added 14 and Kam Fitzek had 13.
"This one just means the world. We're down in the BNC (Big North Conference) and to come here and beat a team that's in first place (is great)," Fitzek said. "They're first in the BNC, a really tough conference and this just means wonders."
In one of its most complete performances of the season, the Wildcats held a 15-14 lead after the first quarter and took control of the game from there. Alpena started the second quarter on a 10-0 run and took a 34-26 lead into halftime.
Defensively, every Alpena player came up big, whether it was with a steal, a block or a rebound. Andy Marwede led Alpena with seven rebounds and Cordes and Fitzek were also among those that snatched away second chances from Petoskey. The Northmen struggled to connect from the perimeter and, at times, were just plain outworked by an Alpena team that didn't let up.
Alpena limited Petoskey's Erik Davenport, the second-leading scorer in the conference to just 10 points and only one basket in the first half. Sam Baumgartner led the Northmen with 15 points and Quinn Ameel added 13.
The win marked a huge ending to a week that saw Alpena top Tawas on Monday and Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday.
"With three games, you can get tired because you're going all the time, but you keep playing," Fitzek said. "After one win you get a little confidence, after a second win you keep going and you feel more and more powerful."
After scoring just one basket in the first half, Cordes caught fire in the third quarter, working his magic in the paint and finishing the period with 10 points. Working down low served Alpena's big men well on Friday and they weren't afraid to draw contact by driving the lane either. It was a good compliment to the outside play of Pintar and Brad Styma, who weaved their way past defenders for key buckets that kept Alpena ahead.
"We kept on driving the ball inside. Any time we can get a post-up down low or Luke would get a steal, we'd just try to get the ball to him," Fitzek said.
Alpena led 50-35 headed into the fourth quarter and withstood a brief run by the Northmen that pulled them to within nine, 52-43, with 5:08 left. Marwede and Pintar however, pulled Alpena back out a double-digit lead from there to help secure the win as Petoskey struggled to connect in the closing minutes.
With lots of momentum headed into the last week of the regular season, Fitzek said the Wildcats are feeling confident and have grown a lot as the season has gone on.
"For us, seeing that we can beat Petoskey at home, we feel like we can beat anyone," Fitzek said. "We feel like we can make a huge run in the playoffs and districts and go as far as we can."
Alpena's JV team won 62-54 and had four players in double figures. Cody Tucker paced Alpena with 21 points, Eli Martin had 16 and Dylan Hoes and Nic Skiba each had 12.
Petoskey topped Alpena's freshman team 64-33. Braedon Werth led Alpena with eight points and Blaise Landon added seven.
ALPENA (64): Kendziorski 1 0-0 2; Marwede 4 0-0 8; Pintar 6 4-5 16; Styma 3 0-0 7; Smith 1 0-0 2; Fitzek 6 0-3 13; Cordes 7 0-0 14; LaCross 1 0-0 2.
PETOSKEY (51): Davenport 4 1-2 10; Baumgartner 7 1-2 15; Ameel 5 0-0 13; LeBlanc 2 2-3 6; Lamberti 1 1-2 3; Whitmore 2 0-0 4.