ROGERS CITY-The Posen boys basketball team has had a season of up and downs, but the Vikings have been on an upswing the last two games.
The pendulum kept swinging their way as they pulled off a tight 72-67 win on Wednesday in a Class D district semifinal against an aggressive Onaway team to move to the district final on Friday against Hillman.
"We've been on a roll the last two games and I told the guys if they played in the district the way they played those games they had a real good chance of winning," Posen coach Steve Hentkowski said.
It was an aggressive game that featured physical offense, pushy defense and plenty of rolling and scrambling on the floor for the ball. Four of Posen's players came into serious foul trouble in the last quarter with Nick Hincka, Martin Mulka, Brandon Dietz and Travis Sharpe in danger of being fouled out with six minutes to go with only Sharpe actually exciting the game. "We were trying to pound it down there at the end with our two post players. I think we got two of the best post players (Carlos Bautista and Joe O'Bradovich) in the district but those players (Hincka, Mulka, Dietz and Sharpe) just wouldn't draw that fifth foul," Onaway coach Eddy Szymoniak said.
Bautista pulled 17 rebounds while O'Bradovich had 18.
This aggressive play began almost immediately as Bautista scored the first field goal of the night 20 seconds into the game. Back to back threes by Sharpe and Mulka pulled Posen to a 6-2 lead just a minute into the game.
It was a lead Posen never lost.
Onaway watched as Hincka, Sharpe, Luke Litwinski and Mulka pushed hard to the net over and over again. Onaway's tight, tight defensive disrupted many Posen drives, but not enough as Posen pulled ahead 21-10 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was a similar fight with Posen extending a comfortable lead at the beginning, but falling under the pressure of persistent Onaway offense. O'Bradovich's rebounds snagged away too many scoring chances for Posen while consistent play by Rasheed Porter kept putting points on the board.
In the end, the Vikings were able to score enough points to hold off the Cardinals but a buzzer beater and free throw by Bautista brought the game to a 32-27 spread for Posen at halftime.
The third quarter was another back and forth scoring match that saw tempers rising and Onaway's tight glue defense drawing fouls regularly. The Cardinals were able to fight to a 41-36 spread with three minutes left.
Back-to-back treys by Hincka and a steal and field goal from Mulka stymied the Cardinals' run a little but they were able to fight back to a 57-45 spread to end the third period.
The tenseness in the gym in the fourth was thick enough to taste. Both bleachers cheered strong and hard for their teams, especially after Hincka hit a field goal a minute into the fourth quarter o pull Posen ahead 59-45.
As four of Posen's top players teetered towards fouling out, the Vikings became less aggressive, which gave Onaway a chance to snap back with a nine-point streak that brought the game to 59-54 with five minutes left to go.
Hentkowski called a time out after the last field goal fell.
"I called the time out to remind the boys of what was at stake and to remind them of how they played the last few games. They needed to be reminded that they could pull it off," Hentkowski said.
Posen's two-minute scoreless streak was broke by a Mulka three-pointer that pulled Posen to a 62-57 lead with five minutes to play.
The rest of the game was a tense back and forth match that Onaway could not win, especially after both Bautista and Jason Sigsby fouled out.
"We played out tails off tonight, I couldn't ask any more from the boys. There were a lot of free throws and easy shots we just couldn't drop tonight. Posen is a decent team and got hot tonight and getting into the hole that early in the game killed us," Szymoniak said.
Hentkowski contemplated the win after the game as the Vikings will try for their third straight district title on Friday.
"I think our defense caught Onaway off guard. We changed up a lot of different offenses early on and got some easy transition baskets. I really got to hand it to our bench tonight. Players like Brandon (Dietz) and John (Zabroney) really came out and filled in important spots when we needed them," Hentkowski said.
Posen (72): M. Mulka 9-5-7-25: T. Sharpe 2-1-3-6: L. Litwinski 2-2-2-6: N. Hincka 8-8-12-26: W. Beach 0-2-4-2: B. Dietz 2-3-4-7: J. Zabroney 0-0-2-0.
Onaway (67): R. Porter 4-1-6-9: J. O'Bradovich 7-2-5-16: J. Sigsby 1-5-6-7: C. Bautista 8-2-8-20: C. Cleaver 1-0-2-2: A. Perry 3-0-1-9: Ja. Sigsby 2-0-0-4.