The girls basketball district finals start tonight across the state and there's a very real possibility several Northeast Michigan teams could advance to regionals by night's end.
Alpena (6-14) beat Traverse City Central 48-42 in the district semifinals and will play at Traverse City West tonight at 7 p.m.
West upset district champ favorite Marquette on Wednesday.
The Wildcats have lost twice to West this season, 30-15 and 39-38, but they're one game from their first district title since 2001.
"We're glad to be in this situation and we're going to give our best effort to bring home a district title," Alpena coach Dan Arsenault said.
Alpena was stifled by the slow, deliberate offense of the Titans (5-16) in its first game, but broke through in the second by upsetting West's style.
Girls district final games tonight
Alpena at Traverse City West, 7 p.m.
Houghton?Lake at Alcona, 7 p.m.
Onaway and Posen at Wolverine, 7 p.m.
"The key to beating them is to try to speed them up a little. We had some success trapping them and forcing them to pass the ball and take shots quicker than they're used to," Arsenault said. "They like to wait for good shooting opportunities, so you have to be disciplined defensively."
Adrianna Hatch is Alpena's top scorer, averaging 10 points per game and Lizzy Trelfa is one of Alpena's better post players.
Jenna Talbot will work primarily to defensively shut down West's top players, Kiley Kreple and Kimmy Bilinski.
Posen (22-0) faces Onaway tonight in Wolverine at 7 p.m. and have the chance to win its fifth straight district title.
"We're pretty excited about it. We're calling it the 'Drive for Five.' Korynn (Hincka) would be the one player that had been on the team for all five," Posen coach Karl Momrik said. "We're expecting a real nice crowd from Posen to go down there."
However, the Vikings are going to have to get past Onaway (12-10) first.
The Cardinals have had a solid year and have played some tough teams in some close losses. Players like Erika Price, Lexi Szymoniak and Devin Bristley are tough forces both offensively and defensively.
"I don't have a girl on my team on the floor that I'm not confident can make a shot for me. Erika's going to have to make tomorrow. Lexi has probably best vertical leap in our area and she's had something like 16 double-doubles this season," Onaway coach Marty Mix said.
Price is averaging around 11 points per game while Szymoniak averages 10 rebounds.
Onaway will have to neutralize Hincka if it want to have the chance to win. Hincka leads the area in points (29) and rebounds (12).
In spite of Posen's lengthy win streak and its luck in the districts finals, Momrik is not ignoring the risk of losing to Onaway.
"We got a lot of respect for Marty Mix and what he does in the program. He's a really good coach," Momrik said.
Alcona (18-3) hosts Houghton Lake in a district final in Lincoln at 7 p.m. and if it wins, it will be Alcona's first district title since 2010.
The Tigers aren't ignoring the potential of an upset from Houghton Lake in spite of its 6-15 record.
"We played them this year in camp twice. We did pretty good against them, but they're definitely playing better and you could tell they came in with a mission their last few games," Alcona coach Brad Cole said.
The Bobcats utilized a tight man-to-man which created a high tempo defensive attack that Mio struggled against in the first half. It was led offensively by Sarah Garrett and Hailee Akin. Houghton Lake perfered a fast paced offensive and defensive approach that Mio struggled against.
Quick play suits Alcona just fine.
"We definitely want to keep our game play style, which is to push the ball. When we're playing our best, we run very few offensive sets as most of our scores come from fast breaks," Cole said. "For example, Tawas is a tough team, but I think we ran them out of gas in the middle of the third quarter.
Alcona is consistently led offensively by sisters Karina and Kendra Cole. Karina averages 24 points a game while Kendra averages seven.
Other Alcona players like Torie Harmon and Nicole Walen don't always put up big scoring numbers, but serve vital roles as passers, defenders and occasional scorers.
"To pick up a district championship in front of a home crowd would be doubly sweet and would really get us going for regionals," Cole said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.