The Alpena boys basketball team passed a tough test on Monday after beating Marquette 47-34 at home in a district quarterfinal.
But the Wildcats aren't necessarily out of the weeds just yet.
While beating the Redmen advanced Alpena to a district semifinal, it also set up a third matchup with Traverse City Central. The Wildcats will play at Central tonight at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to face either Sault Ste. Marie or Traverse City West on Friday.
News File Photo
Alpena’s Andy Marwede shoots a layup during a boys basketball game at Alpena High School against Ogemaw Heights. The Wildcats play at Traverse City Central tonight in a district semifinal.
The Trojans are the only team to beat the Wildcats this season after a last-second shot gave them a 72-70 victory in Alpena's season opener. Since then the Wildcats have reeled off 19 straight wins, including a 59-44 win over Central in January.
Alpena is by no means looking past Central though. Central overcame an early 14-0 deficit against Petoskey and stunned the Northmen 50-49. Alpena coach John Pintar knows Central is better than its 7-14 record and will prepare his team to contend with the Trojans' physical style.
"They're very physical. They have a very aggressive style of play and they're going to come at you for 32 minutes straight," Pintar said.
Class A district semifinal
7 p.m. tonight
Pintar said the Wildcats will pay particular attention to Central's forwards which include 6-7 sophomore Jackson Schrameyer and 6-4 senior Max Knoblock. Schrameyer led Central with 11 points in Monday's game and Knoblock chipped in 10 points.
Central might have a formidable front court, but Alpena has shown the ability to shut down an opponent no matter what it's faced with. What Alpena lacks in size, the Wildcats have more than made up for it with speed and athleticism and it's paid dividends so far. The Wildcats shut down Marquette's formidable perimeter game on Monday and have held several big men in check this season including Cadillac's Jalen Brooks and Ogemaw's Alec Stevens.
The one-and-done nature of the postseason requires an ability to forget quickly and move on to the next game. Pintar isn't worried about that sort of thing with his squad, even coming off the emotional high of Monday's win. He pointed to the fact that for the last few weeks of the season, teams were gunning for Alpena when it took over the Big North Conference lead and was getting everyone's best game as a result.
He's expecting the same thing from Central tonight.
"I'm not worried about them overlooking anybody. I think our guys will be more than motivated," Pintar said.
A win tonight for Alpena would put them a step closer to their first district title since 2008 and the Wildcats would also host the district final on Friday.
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.