Wildcats top Gaylord to earn first BNC victory
After struggling to get anything going offensively in its previous two games, the Alpena girls basketball team figured out ways to put the ball in the basket on Friday.
It paid off in a big way as the Wildcats earned their first Big North Conference victory of the season by defeating Gaylord 56-51 at Alpena High School.
The 56 points Alpena scored Friday was three more than it scored in its previous two games as the Wildcats were able to snap their two-game losing skid.
“Beating Gaylord in particular is huge for us because they have played other teams in the conference close. We needed this win and we need to start getting some momentum before we play Cadillac next week and the Traverse Cities after break,” Alpena head coach Erin Andrews said.
Alpena (2-2, 1-1 Big North) had no choice but to score as the Blue Devils (2-3) (1-2) got an offensive spark all game from Rebecca Ross who displayed her sharpshooting ability and scored a game-high 25 points and made life difficult for the Wildcats all game.
“She (Ross) is a very good player and what we did tonight was slowing her down. We tried to put as much pressure on her and Savanah Gapinski as we could and stayed with them the entire night,” Andrews said. “Her (Ross) having a big game means that Gapinski didn’t have a big game because they both can’t have a big game. I think we did pretty good with them tonight.”
As good as Ross was for Gaylord, Emma Jore’s play was equally as important for the Wildcats. Jore paced Alpena with 19 points, 15 of which came in the first half as she hit four shots from beyond the three point in the half.
Jore opened the game with a three and the Blue Devils responded by scoring nine unanswered, seven of which came from Ross. Alpena quickly regrouped and scored the final six points of the quarter to tie the game at nine.
Jore and Kourtney Jones opened the second quarter with back-to-back triples to give Alpena a 15-9 lead as the Wildcats held Gaylord scoreless for nearly six minutes.
The Blue Devils responded with two triples of their own from Gapinski and Ross to tie the game at 15. Both teams were tied at 17 when Jore hit her third three of the night to put Alpena ahead 20-17. Ross and Jore went back and forth to lead their teams.
The Wildcats ended the half strong as Jore scored the final nine points for the home team to give Alpena a 26-26 lead at the break.
“I had discussed with the girls that we needed to go score. I told them we can’t take our points home with us,” Andrews said. “Emma came out gunning and Kourtney came out shooting. Our guards were shooting and it allowed our bigs to rebound and put shots back up when we needed.”
Ross continued to do her best to carry the Blue Devils as she scored six of the team’s first eight points in the third quarter as Gaylord jumped out to 34-30 lead early, but the lead quickly disappeared as Alpena responded with nine unanswered points contributed by four different Wildcats.
Alpena held a 44-41 lead after three quarters and were in a tight battle all night as Gaylord took its final lead of the game with just over three minutes to play as they led 47-46.
The Wildcats scored five straight points to take a 51-47 lead and put some pressure on the Blue Devils with 2:14 left.
Gaylord cut the lead the three with 1:42 to play. A Blue Devil foul sent Jones to the charity stripe where she cashed in on both free throws to put Alpena up 53-48 with just over a minute and a half left.
The momentum shifted in a big way on the ensuing possession as Ross was called for a travel and did not agree with the call and got hit with a technical foul.
Jore split a pair of free throw attempts after the technical to give Alpena a 54-48 lead with 58 seconds to go. Gaylord was forced to foul.
Jones also split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to seven. The Wildcat defense put the clamps down in the final seconds to hang on and close out the game.
Jore led Alpena with 19 points, Dakota Prevo scored 12 points, Jones added 10 points and Jessica Leeck chipped in with six points.
Ross led all scorers with 25. Mackenzie Wilkie added 11 points and Gapinski ended the game with eight points.
“Everyone wants wins for Christmas so a few more wins will make everyone more happy. We have a few tough games next week and we want to build off of this win tonight and gain some momentum before the break,” Andrews said.
Alpena will get an early Christmas gift as senior Shelby Seaver will return to the court in the Wildcats next game against Alcona on Tuesday. Seaver missed the first four games of the season due to a knee injury.
“Shelby is going to practice for the first time next week and we’ll get her into some offense and see what she can do on her new leg,” Andrews said.
The Alpena JV team defeated Gaylord 36-23. Allison DeRocher scored eight points. Alysa Funk added seven points and Amanda Johnson chipped in with six points.
ALPENA (56): T. Foster 1 0-0 3; K. Jones 2 4-6 10; J. Shultz 2 0-0 4; M. Voltz 1 0-0 2; E. Jore 5 5-8 19; J. Leeck 3 0-0 6; D. Prevo 5 2-4 12.
GAYLORD (51): M. Wilkie 3 4-4 11; R. Freeman 2 0-0 5; R. Ross 11 2-4 25; L. Mead 1 0-0 2; S. Gapinski 3 1-2 8.