A few steps behind

Wildcats struggle against Sault’s defensive pressure in loss

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Anna Young (23) drives in for a layup attempt while being defended by Sault Ste. Marie players Julia Beaumont (42) and Ashtyn Bell.

Sault Ste. Marie’s defensive pressure got the better of the Alpena girls basketball team on Tuesday.

Ashtyn Bell scored 10 points, Melina Robertson added nine and the Blue Devils used their defense to overtake Alpena 47-28 during a game at Alpena High School.

Sault brought the pressure early and used a strong defensive effort to limit the Wildcats to single digits in each of the last three quarters during Alpena’s 2018-19 season opener. The Blue Devils led 13-12 after one quarter, but pushed their lead to 22-14 by halftime and kept building from there.

“That’s what they’re known for, so we knew that was coming,” Alpena coach Erin Andrews said of the Blue Devils. “We’ve just got to be stronger, attack (and) be more confident in ourselves. That will come with time.”

With Bell and Julia Beaumont pressuring Alpena inside, the Wildcats (0-1) played a few steps behind the Blue Devils. The passes weren’t quite as crisp, the ball was just out of reach on rebounds and easy shots just didn’t seem to fall when the Wildcats needed them.

The Wildcats were outscored 9-2 in the second quarter, allowing Sault to pull away and were outscored 25-14 in the second half.

Anna Young paced Alpena with six points and Mollie Girard and Abbie Funk each added five.

Andrews was impressed with her team’s defensive communication and aggressiveness early in the game and both teams traded points in the first quarter with Young scoring Alpena’s first six points.

A buzzer beater from Jordan Scott gave the Blue Devils the lead for good at the end of the first quarter however and Alpena struggled to recover. Sault only scored nine points in the second quarter, but made the most of them. Kayla Wilhelms drained a three-pointer in the first 30 seconds of the period and Bell essentially had a four-point play when she missed the second of two free throws, grabbed a rebound and sank a triple in the span of eight seconds to put Sault ahead 20-12.

Alpena attempted to keep pace on the offensive end, but struggled at times to get around Sault’s press and couldn’t convert at least a handful of easy chances at the basket.

“Lots of easy baskets that didn’t go in and we just need to get a better angle on the basket,” Andrews said. “It’s the first game. I actually think it was better than I thought it was going to be. I saw a lot of good things. We just need to finish around the rim and that will come.”

The Wildcats battled back in the third quarter and cut the lead to eight, 30-22 with 3:18 left, after a three-point from Girard, but Alpena couldn’t pull any closer than that and was held scoreless for more than four minutes after that.

Alpena will return to action on Friday and will host Grayling at 7 p.m.

“We’re looking forward to having a Friday night game; that will be helpful,” Andrews said. “We don’t get too many of those and we have a couple this year, so the girls are excited to play.”

Sault’s JV team defeated Alpena 60-21. Jenna Leeck led Alpena with seven points and Jenna Zielaskowski added six.


BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free throws made/Free throws attempted/Total Points

SAULT STE. MARIE (47): M. Robertson 3 1-2 9; J. Scott 2 1-2 5; K. Wilhelms 3 0-0 8; F. Wojnaroski 2 0-0 4; A. Bell 3 5-8 10; A. Kaunisto 2 2-2 6; J. Beaumont 1 3-4 5.

ALPENA (28): A. DeRocher 0 2-4 2; M. Girard 2 0-0 5; J. Schultz 1 2-4 4; M. Voltz 2 0-0 4; Ab. Funk 1 3-4 5; A. Young 3 0-0 6; J. Leeck 1 0-0 2.