Wildcats pull away for easy win over Chiefs

Courtesy Photo Alpena guard Kayden Wisniewski (1) drives past Cheboygan guard Matt Terrill during the second half of a boys basketball contest in Cheboygan on Monday.

CHEBOYGAN — For one quarter against the Alpena Wildcats — one of the tallest teams they’ll face this season — things went pretty well for the Chiefs, who only trailed 13-11.

But from the second quarter on, just about everything — especially perimeter shooting, free throw shooting and defense — went completely bad in a hurry.

And what looked like a potentially competitive game turned into an ugly one really quick.

The Wildcats — paced by the terrific play of 6-foot-5 center Chris DeRocher, who finished with a game-high 24 points — used a 24-4 second quarter run to take complete control and cruise to a 71-31 victory in Cheboygan on Monday night.

“We probably should’ve been ahead with the way we worked in the first quarter, but the second quarter wasn’t good. We’ve gotta react better than that,” said Cheboygan coach Rick Swiderek, whose team was outscored 27-6 in the second. “(Our shooting) has really been poor. It’s not like we don’t shoot in practice, we do. Maybe we’re not doing enough, I don’t know. I’m kind of scratching my head at this point. We might’ve taken five or six bad shots, but a lot of those shots were makeable. Those kids do make those in practice, believe me. It’s just frustrating.”

Following the Chiefs’ bright start to the contest, the Wildcats (2-1) began to use the dominace of DeRocher, who scored 13 of his 17 first-half points in the second. DeRocher wasn’t alone as teammate Aidan Goike (15 points) also had a strong quarter.

While the Chiefs (0-2) were struggling from the field, the Wildcats displayed rock-solid defense to stretch their lead to 40-17 at the break.

“We got off to a slow start, but once we picked it up on the defensive end, I thought we got out and did a lot of good things in transition,” said Alpena coach John Pintar. “Overall I was pleased with our defensive effort from every guy that was out there.

“We always know coming up here (to Cheboygan) they’re going to fight and battle you for everything. I think our defense was the difference a little bit, taking away good looks for them and forcing some turnovers. We were really able to get out and get transition baskets and that was how we were able to get that lead in the second quarter.”

In addition to their outside-shooting problems where they finished at a 25 percent clip, the free throw line wasn’t much better for the Chiefs, who were just 3-of-18.

“I was very impressed with that first quarter, but it was just like a horror story after that,” Swiderek said. “It’s disgusting not to be able to shoot and make free throws. You have no one guarding you so that’s just a total lack of concentration in my book, to shoot 3-of-18 at the varsity level. I wouldn’t accept that when I was the eighth grade coach. It’s another thing we’ll work on, but that’s concentration on the shooter’s part in my book. We’ll just go from there.”

Even with a huge advantage at the break, Pintar praised his team’s ability not to take the foot off the gas pedal and build a bigger lead in the third.

“Having the lead we had at halftime, I’ve been in this gym enough to see things change really fast,” Pintar said. “It has a lot of ways to produce points quick, and so we really talked about making sure that Cheboygan wasn’t able to get out to a quick start in that third quarter. We were able to score some points early in the third there, so it was kind of big to open up that lead and take away their momentum.”

After two ugly losses to start the season, the Chiefs will look to turn things around quickly as they host Newberry in their Straits Area Conference opener on Thursday.

Swiderek is hoping his team will be able to break out of its slump immediately.

“I don’t think we’re putting out enough effort as hard as we can right now,” Swiderek said. “We’re struggling. I don’t have the answers right now, but we’re just going to come back and keep working. We’ve gotta do a better job defensively, too. The big kid (DeRocher) had 17 points at the half. We’ve gotta play harder and do a little better defensively against a guy like that. He pretty much wiped us out by himself in the first half.

“I thought we would shoot the ball much better than we have in the first two games.”

Senior Max Klinger and junior Zavin Goodrich scored eight points each to lead the Chiefs on the night. Asher Bury had five points, Kegan Comps had four, Avery Bury had three, Matt Terrell had two, and Jake Blaskowski had one to round out Cheboygan.

The Wildcats also received 12 points from Bruz Copping, while Walker Martin tallied six, and Brand Secrest and Eli Alexander had four apiece.

The Alpena junior varsity team earned a 60-54 victory over Cheboygan. Tyler Dickinson led Alpena with 18, Kelley Stark had 14 and Adam Urlaub had 10.