Starting off strong

DeRocher’s career night sparks Alpena in win over Escanaba

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Chris DeRocher (33) backs down Escanaba defender Carter Hudson during the fourth quarter of a boys basketball game on Friday at Alpena High School. DeRocher finished with a career high 42 points to lead the Wildcats to a 79-67 win over the Eskymos.

After finishing 2018 strong and winning six of seven to open the season, the Alpena High boys basketball team carried momentum into the new year.

Despite a two week layoff, the Wildcats picked up right where they left off and knew they had to put together a strong effort against an Escanaba team that came in averaging nearly 70 points per game through its first seven games.

Alpena (7-1) matched the Eskymos’ intensity from start to finish and the Wildcats earned a 79-67 victory thanks to senior Chris DeRocher, who scored a career high 42 points.

“It started with my teammates getting me open looks and we were really moving around well. I have to credit my teammates, I got a lot of open shots and I was feeling good tonight and was able to knock down a lot of those open shots,” DeRocher said. “It was a great victory for us. Escanaba is a great team and we just came out, played hard, fast and we put up a lot of points. Our defense could have been better, but at the end of the day we put up more points than they did.”

The Eskymos (4-4) used their size and aggressive style to their advantage in the early stages of the game, getting out to an 8-3 lead. The Wildcats responded scoring nine unanswered points to take the lead for good as as DeRocher and the Wildcats continued to get good looks and make easy baskets.

“It was a big win. We knew they had a size advantage and we needed to outwork them. We had to play quick, take advantage of opportunities against their zone and get the ball inside and we found areas to exploit and we did a good job moving the ball and attacking. We didn’t settle a lot, we were patient and got a lot of easy shots,” Alpena coach John Pintar said. “When you score close to 80 points you’re doing a lot of things right on the offensive end. The ball movement was excellent and the guys just took advantage of situations and that was the theme all night. I thought we were very smart with how we attacked.

The Wildcats held a 43-31 lead at the break and were led by DeRocher who poured in 20 first half points.

Alpena refused to let up and continued to extend the lead when Kelley Stark hit a three to put the Wildcats up 55-36 midway through the third quarter.

DeRocher buried a triple early in the fourth to give the Wildcats a 72-52 lead which was their largest of the night.

“Chris, right from the get go he just brought it and brought the energy. He’s obviously a very good basketball player and tonight you saw what a great player does when they work that hard,” Pintar said. “He doesn’t take anything for granted. He fought, battled and you can’t say enough. Coaching kids like that are easy because he just does so many things and his approach to the game is to go and work as hard as he can. When one of your best players is your hardest worker, good things happen and that’s why he scored 42 points, it’s a great credit to him.”

DeRocher’s career night brings him closer to another special milestone.

DeRocher now has 1,340 career points and is 97 points shy of breaking the Alpena’s all-time record of 1,436 held by Butch Feher set in 1972.

“A night like this is always good. You always want to make a career milestone at home and we’ll see how the rest of the schedule plays out,” DeRocher said. “It was a real good night and I hope there is more nights like tonight and maybe even get some more teammates involved, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Along with DeRocher, Bruz Copping finished with 13 points, while Stark and Jadon Duncan each added eight points apiece in the win.

Escanaba was paced by big men Jared Nash and Austin Willette who combined for 37 of the Eskymos points. Nash led Escanaba with 20 points and Willette collected 17 points. Carter Hudson finished with 12 points and Peyton Fedell chipped in with 10 points.

The Alpena JV team lost a heartbreaker to Escanaba, falling by a final score of 47-45.

Jordan Schultz led Alpena with 14 points.

The Alpena freshman team lost to Escanaba 66-38.

Austin Prue led the Wildcats with 10 points and Travis Weide added nine points.

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BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free-throws made/Free-throws attempted/Total points

ALPENA (79): J. Schmanski, 2 0-0 4; A. Goike, 2 0-0 4; B. Copping, 6 0-0 13; J. Duncan, 4 0-0 8; K. Stark, 3 0-0 8; C. DeRocher, 12 13-18 42.

ESCANABA (67): P. Fedell, 4 0-0 10; C. Kamin, 1 4-6 6; B. Willis, 1 0-0 2; C. Hudson, 4 2-3 12; J. Nash, 8 2-3 20; A. Willette, 8 1-1 17.