Saturday's 99-89 win over Kirtland was the kind of win that the Alpena Community College men's basketball team needed: one that showed it could keep up its intensity for a whole game and not give its opponent the chance to take control of the game.
"It feels good. The kids played hard. We played not real smart at times, but we played hard. If you play hard for 40 minutes, you're going to win basketball games," ACC head coach Frank McCourt said.
This was ACC's first Eastern Conference win.
News Photo by Eric Benac
ACC’s Kharri Dailey (3) goes to the hoop while Kirtland’s Micah Thomey watches during a men’s basketball game on Saturday at Park Arena.
The Lumberjacks (3-8, 1-2 Eastern Conference) started out strong after Scott Hicks III hit a three pointer less than 30 seconds into the game. Five minutes later, ACC held a 9-4 lead over the Tigers.
The Firebirds narrowed the lead to 11-10 only a minute later. Jeremiah Williams, a native of Traverse City, scored six of Kirtland's 10 points in the first seven minutes.
Williams was not the only northern Michigan native on Kirtland's squad. Northeast Michigan players on Kirtland's squad included Alcona's Aaron Ritchie and Bryan Layton as well as Mio's Lasse Steinort and Micah Thomey.
Ritchie didn't get the chance to play, but Layton was on the floor 11 minutes for six points. Steinort and Thomey played up 13 and 27 minutes a piece against the Lumberjacks with Steinort hitting a free throw and Thomey scoring eight points.
The Lumberjacks continued to hold the lead throughout the first half, with the Firebirds often coming within two or three points of tying or taking the lead, but ACC always found a way to stay ahead.
Logan Wickert, one of ACC's perimeter shot specialists, had five treys on the night and 18 points total.
"Logan Wickert was on fire tonight," McCourt said.
Stephen Shepard was another big presence for ACC in the first half. The 6-6 forward consistently worked his way through Kirtland's press and scored several times in the post to keep momentum going for ACC. He picked up eight points in the half and 20 points total.
The half ended with a Thomey basket narrowing ACC's lead to 38-34.
The second half showed a win-hungry ACC squad running a man-to-man defense that often veered into half and full court presses. Kirtland had some difficultly with the press, but ACC ran into foul trouble in the second half, giving up 18 points at the line.
The Firebirds pushed hard and briefly took a 45-44 lead off a Williams trey four minutes in, but Travon Howard answered back with a three 30 seconds later while Wickert hit another trey a minute later to pull to a 50-45 lead.
Howard led ACC with 23 points.
Kharri Dailey, who recently returned to ACC's roster made an immediate impact on the floor, setting up plays and often pushing through players a foot taller than him to pick up several key baskets throughout the latter part of the game.
He hit a basket at 8:10 that gave the Lumberjacks a 65-62 lead to help maintain the lead over the Firebirds.
Howard went on a scoring frenzy, picking up nine points in two minute to pull ahead 93-84 with 49 seconds to go.
By the time Kirtland started fouling ACC, it was too late to make up the difference.
"We rebounded really well, I think. We did a pretty good job on the boards. It doesn't get any easier. We got to go to Schoolcraft on Wednesday," McCourt said.
ACC also hosts Henry Ford on Saturday.
ACC (99): T. Howard 7-6-6-23; K. Dailey 3-4-6-10; W. Gates 1-0-0-2; E. Thompson 4-0-0-8; S. Hicks 6-0-0-14; L. Wickert 6-0-0-18; K. Bush 2-0-2-4; S. Shepard 8-4-5-20.
KIRTLAND (89): R. Koepke 6-0-0-15; C. Craven 7-5-5-20; J. Williams 4-7-10-15; J. Ocobock 5-6-8-16; M. Thomey 3-0-0-8; L. Steinort 0-1-2-1; B. Layton 1-4-4-6; I. Vukovic 1-1-3-3; Z. Tobin 2-0-0-5.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.