One night after winning a close game against Tawas, the Alpena girls basketball team ended up on the other end of the spectrum on Saturday.
Despite playing Gaylord close the entire night, the Wildcats lost 38-34 in a Big North Conference game at Alpena High School.
Alpena led 32-31 with 4:27 to play, but the Wildcats couldn't stay ahead as they went scoreless for the next four minutes. The Wildcats had several scoreless stretches in the second half, but the last one proved costly as the Blue Devils were able to pull ahead for good.
"We got down to the fourth quarter and had a shot to win. The game could've gone either way down the stretch," Alpena coach Dan Arsenault said. "We didn't get a couple bounces, but the effort is there and we're going to keep fighting."
Even with 21 seconds to play, the Wildcats (4-7, 3-4 Big North) still had a shot to win. A bucket from Adrianna Hatch, cut Gaylord's lead to two, 34-32, but the Blue Devils iced the game at the free-throw line a few seconds later.
It was a strong effort from a team that started the season 0-5 and stayed within striking distance of the league-leading Blue Devils. Alpena led 16-15 at halftime despite a slow start from both sides and led early in the third quarter, before its offensive struggles began.
"I didn't think we played very well last night (against Tawas). I thought this was a lot better. We executed better, scored better and just did a lot of things better tonight," Arsenault said. "I was very proud of the effort."
Hatch paced Alpena with 15 points, but the Wildcats managed just three field goals in the third quarter and were outscored 12-8.
Gaylord pushed its lead to eight early in the fourth quarter after a basket from Madison Hamilla gave the Blue Devils a 31-23 lead. Alpena clawed back into the game with an eight-point burst which included two three-pointers from Hatch and gave Alpena its last lead of the game, 32-31 midway through the period.
From there the Blue Devils took over and a driving layup from Hamilla with 1:29 left put Gaylord ahead for good. The Blue Devils made just one field goal in the final four minutes, but went 5-for-10 at the free throw line to help their cause.
Hamilla led Gaylord with 17 points and Brandi Wagner and Lindsey Zaremba each added eight points.
Jenna Talbot added seven points for Alpena and Elizabeth Trelfa chipped in with five.
Alpena will get another shot at Gaylord on Friday, but until then the Wildcats will turn their focus to Traverse City West who they host tonight at 7:30.
The Wildcats have played some close games as of late, but Arsenault believes his team is making significant progress with each game.
"The thing I've told the kids over and over again (is) there's no one on our schedule we can't beat and just getting them to believe in that," Arsenault said. "Hopefully we'll get a few more of those bounces and be able to pull out a win."
Gaylord's JV team defeated Alpena 54-49. Jessica Marwede led Alpena with 14 points and Jordan Modrzynski added eight points.
Alpena's freshman team defeated Gaylord 37-26. Jasmyn Schultz paced Alpena with 21 points, Taylor Kunath added six and Katie Mack added five.
GAYLORD (38): M. Hamilla 6 4-8 17; B. Wagner 2 4-4 8; L. Zaremba 3 2-2 8; L. Hintz 0 3-5 3; A. Kilbourn 0 2-2 2; S. Kassuba 0 0-3 0.
ALPENA (34): E. Trelfa 2 1-2 5; R. Zolnierek 0 1-2 1; J. Talbot 3 1-1 7; A. Hatch 5 0-0 12; M. Allen 2 0-0 4; A. Smith 1 0-0 2; K. Lay 1 0-0 3.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.