The Alpena boys basketball team extended its win streak to 17 on Tuesday when it won a hard fought battle against Sault Ste. Marie 69-57.
"The Sault is a competitive team. One thing about them is that they're going to make you play hard. They're an aggressive group of kids and I knew we were going to have to battle," Alpena coach John Pintar said.
However, it took the Wildcats a bit to get started as Sault took a 20-18 lead into the second quarter.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Dylan Hoes (11) dribbles past Ray’nell Anderson (5) of Sault Ste. Marie on Tuesday during a boys basketball game at Alpena High School. Alpena won 69-57.
Sault took a 2-0 lead less than a minute in off a Terrance Fuller bucket, but a Tyler Pintar trey gave Alpena a 3-2 lead. Michael James hit an answer back three-pointer 20 seconds later to pull the Blue Devils ahead 5-3.
The game stayed tight until Andy Marwede hit a trey to go up 10-7 at 4:21 in the quarter. Marwede hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Alpena a 16-11 lead with 2:50 left in the quarter.
Marwede hit 36 points for Alpena.
A big part of Sault's early game success was tighter defensive play that stopped too many Wildcat drives.
"Our defense struggled at times and they capitalized on that early on in the game," Pintar said.
However, Alpena rebounded in the second quarter to take a 39-31 lead out of the half.
The Wildcats were helped out by successful offensive drives from Marwede and Pintar as well as a glut of free throw opportunities. Alpena went 8-for-10 at the line in the last four minutes
Pintar pitched in for Alpena with 17 points.
The Blue Devils started missing too many buckets while Marwede and Brad Styma blocked out well enough to continually pick up defensive rebounds.
Styma had eight points for the night.
The third quarter stayed fairly tight, yet physical under the net and players on both teams hit the ground jostling for rebounds.
"Any time a team is physical you can start to get frustrated here and there if you're not getting a call. That can't change how you play. I thought tonight, for the most part, we played through that. That's what a good team has to do," Pintar said.
Sault increased its scoring effectiveness in the third, but the Wildcats played well enough to take a 47-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Wildcats offensively and defensively. They hit six field goals and held Sault to three while continually increasing their lead.
Both teams ran into foul trouble throughout the fourth quarter. Alpena gave the Blue Devils 11 chances at the line while Alpena had 13.
Both teams hit eight, but Marwede hit a putback on his last free throw of the night with 20 seconds left to give Alpena the 12-point win.
"They made us play and they made us compete. I give our kids credit for fighting through some tough things. It just wasn't an easy game for us and that's what we expected. Our kids were still able to fight through and finish with a tough victory," Pintar said.
Alpena hosts Ogemaw Heights on Thursday in its last regular season game.
The Alpena junior varsity squad lost a hard fought game 43-39. Dylan Tucker scored 12 and Austin Hemmingon had eight. Both Caleb Myers and Braedan Worth had six.
Alpena's freshman team beat the Blue Devils 55-36. Alec Bell led Alpena with 15 while Jacob Vought had 10. Randy Udell pitched in with nine.
ALPENA (69): N. Skiba 1 0-0 2; A. Marwede 15 3-5 36; T. Pintar 4 7-10 17; C. Tucker 2-2 2; D. Hoes 1 0-2 2; B. Styma 2 4-4 8; K. Smith 2-2 2.
SAULT (57): R. Anderson 3-6 3; M. Eilola 1 1-2 3; T. Fuller 8 4-6 20; J. Houghton 4 4-5 13; M. James 3 0-0 8; B. miller 2 0-0 4; J. Monck 3 0-0 6.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.