The message sinks in

Wildcats win opener behind strong second half

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Bruz Copping, left, drives in for a layup while being defended by Blessed Cardinal Newman's Jude St. Vaudre during the first quarter of a boys basketball game on Thursday at Alpena High School. Copping scored 20 points as the Wildcats defeated the Knights 56-44.

Alpena High boys basketball coach John Pintar gave his team a simple message at halftime on Thursday: get going on offense.

It’s safe to say the Wildcats got the message.

Chris DeRocher scored 26 points and Bruz Copping added 20 as the Wildcats defeated Blessed Cardinal Newman 56-44 in their season opener at Alpena High School.

Alpena (1-0) led 24-20 at halftime, but pulled away with a 16-3 run in the third quarter. With DeRocher and Copping attacking inside, there wasn’t much the Knights could do to slow Alpena.

Copping and DeRocher each scored in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter, prompting a Cardinal Newman timeout, but the duo continued to attack and Alpena balanced its improved scoring with a strong defensive effort.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Aidan Goike, left, shoots during a boys basketball on Thursday at Alpena High School.

“We really emphasized trying to get out on the break and get some easy baskets. I didn’t think we moved the ball as quick as we could early on,” Pintar said. “I thought we created some more turnovers (in the) second half and a lot of it was transition, getting mismatches.”

Buoyed by three-point shooting, Cardinal Newman cut the lead to 12 with 3:44 to play, but a pair of buckets from DeRocher erased any thoughts of a rally.

Pintar was pleased to see DeRocher have a big game and liked Copping’s aggressiveness inside. After a slow start, Copping scored Alpena’s first two baskets of the season, driving inside for a pair of lay-ups.

“Those are going to be two of our top offensive guys really, probably all season and I expect a couple more guys to step in and help us, give us a little more depth in scoring. Chris has been there as a two-year varsity guy coming in, so I expect him to have nights like that all the time,” Pintar said. “I thought Bruz did a great job driving, attacking the basket, very aggressive and it led to a lot of success inside for him.”

Kayden Wisniewski added four points for Alpena and Walker Martin, Eli Alexander and Colin each scored a basket.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Bruz Copping, left, shoots a hook shot over Blessed Cardinal Newman defenders Jude St. Vaudre (3) and Emanuel Osaruyi during a boys basketball on Thursday at Alpena High School.

Jude St. Vaudre led the Knights with 24 points and Ceasar Torres added nine.

The Toronto-based Knights are coached by Don Lindo, who coached the St. John Paul II squad which played against Alpena last December.

A slow start saw both teams tied at 11 after one quarter and 20-20 with 1:17 left in the first half. Alpena pulled away for a 24-20 halftime lead after a basket from Wisniewski and a buzzer-beater from DeRocher.

“I thought we made a lot of mistakes tonight, but I thought in the end we found a way. I thought the second half was much cleaner, we did a lot better job with the basketball. I thought we got out and our fast break was a lot better,” Pintar said. “It’s what you expect first game: a lot of jitters, getting the heart racing and those are the kind of things you want to do and have success doing it. Tonight we were able to do that.”

Aside from Wisniewski’s basket, DeRocher and Copping combined for Alpena’s other 22 points. Copping gave Alpena a brief lead in the second quarter, hitting a pair of three-pointers from the top of the key, but St. Vaudre tied the game a few minutes later on a floater.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Chris DeRocher, left, drives past a pair of defenders to score during a game against Blessed Cardinal Newman Thursday at Alpena High School.

Alpena will have a quick turnaround as it opens Big North Conference play at 6 p.m. Friday against Traverse City Central.

Alpena’s JV team topped the Knights 69-39. Kelley Stark paced Alpena with 23 points, Lucas Manning added 12 and Jack Schmanski had 10.

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ALPENA (56): K. Wisniewski 2 0-0 4; W. Martin 1 0-0 2; Co. Donajkowski 1 0-0 2; B. Copping 8 2-4 20; E. Alexander 1 0-0 2; C. DeRocher 10 6-9 26.

BLESSED CARDINAL NEWMAN (44): J. St. Vaudre 8 5-5 24; J. Kutesa 0 0-2 0; C. Torres 3 0-0 9; M. Diptee 1 0-0 3; E. Osaryui 3 1-1 8.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Chris DeRocher, right, gains control of a jump ball to begin a boys basketball game against Blessed Cardinal Newman Thursday at Alpena High School.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.

News Photo by James Andersen Members of the Alpena High and Blessed Cardinal Newman boys basketball teams pose for a photo after playing each other on Thursday at Alpena High School.