Strong defense helps Alpena beat Chiefs

Courtesy Photo/Cheboygan Daily Tribune Alpena’s Bruz Copping (left) looks to get past Cheboygan’s Mikey Swiderek during the second half of a non-conference matchup in Cheboygan on Tuesday.

CHEBOYGAN — For an early stretch in the second quarter, the Cheboygan varsity boys basketball team showed it could compete with Alpena.

At 18-15, things were looking good for the Chiefs, who opened the period with five quick points.

However, the Wildcats showed they have the ability to flip the switch at any moment.

That moment came immediately after the Cheboygan run for the Wildcats, who exploded with a 22-0 spurt to take complete control by halftime and roll to a 80-42 victory in a non-conference matchup on Tuesday.

“Our guys have really been playing good basketball, and they found their footing in that second quarter,” said Alpena coach John Pintar. “It started on the defensive end, we really started to clamp down, and it was the defense that really triggered that whole run, because I don’t think (Cheboygan) scored many points that quarter. That was a really good effort by our guys, and that’s kind of been where our team’s headed right now.”

The second quarter was a bright start for the Chiefs (2-11), who cut their deficit to three thanks to a 3-pointer from Cody Jewell and a bucket from Avery Bury just 30 seconds in.

But from there, the Wildcats (14-2) — led 6-foot-6 senior Chris DeRocher and many, many others — used their offensive balance and defense to make things hard on the Chiefs, who were outscored 22-7.

“(Alpena is) just a tough matchup for us,” said Cheboygan coach Rick Swiderek. “We got pushed underneath a lot, and they’re so big. We can’t match up with them. Besides that, they have good shooters. They’re tied for first (in the Big North Conference) for a reason, they’ve got a very solid team. (John Pintar) has a good group and they play well together. They shoot it well, they move it quickly.

“We just sat in our zone, and that’s not good. You just pick your poison with them.”

After a relatively quiet first half, DeRocher (25 points) caught fire in the third, scoring 18 points — including four made 3-pointers — to help the Wildcats take a 62-31 lead going into the fourth.

Joining DeRocher with good scoring nights for the Wildcats were Kelley Stark (18 points), Jadon Duncan (10), Garrett Beaulieu (eight) and Bruz Copping (eight).

“I think over the last four or five games — and really all year — we’ve had contributions from guys all over, but we’re really starting to see our team find our footing for everybody doing different things,” DeRocher said. “Obviously Chris (DeRocher) had his stretch there in the third quarter and all that, but part of that was the other guys doing it. I thought Jadon Duncan had a great first half, did a lot of good things, really pushed the ball well, attacked. Bruz Copping hit some threes for us (in the first quarter), Aidan Goike was making some nice passes, Kelley Stark came off the bench and scored a lot for us. Ultimately to be a really good team, which we’ve preached all year, is to get everybody involved to play defense, first of all, and kind of take advantage of the attention that’s paid to Chris.

“I thought tonight we really did a good job of that.”

Leading the Chiefs with 12 points was Bury, while Robert Bruce tallied seven, and Jewell had six. Jake Stempky, Sam Schneider and Mikey Swiderek each finished with four points. Michael Gofourth notched three. Caleb Diamond rounded out Cheboygan with five rebounds.

Next up for the Chiefs, who are 2-3 in the Straits Area Conference, will be a league matchup at Rudyard on Friday. The Chiefs knocked off the Bulldogs in a close game back in December.

“I told the guys, ‘Hey, this one’s over, we’ve got a big one on Friday,'” Swiderek said. “I saw good things tonight. Avery Bury was a lot more aggressive, which was good to see. Cody (Jewell) made some nice shots, Robert (Bruce) started out hot. It was good to see that. We just gotta regroup. It’s been a goofy week with no school for seven days in a row. We’ve been in the gym a couple times, but I’d like to get back in the routine, get them back into school, get back to practice, so I think that’ll help us out.”

In the junior varsity game, Ethan Kujawa scored 14 points to lead Cheboygan in a 53-21 loss to Alpena. Aidan Kosanke and Noah Demers both finished with three points for the Chiefs, while Carson Mercer had one.

Keegan Hahn and Ryan Voltz each had 15 points to lead Alpena in the win.