The wait is finally over

Oscoda captures first district title with win over Alcona

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki The Oscoda girls basketball team celebrates after winning their first district championship in program history after defeating Alcona on Friday night at Oscoda High School. Pictured left to right are, back: Anna Roy, Andrea Bickel, Delaney Ellis, Izzy Hulverson, Lauren Langley, Mercedez Arocha and Megan Myles; front: Kaylin Griggs, Olivia Toppi, Katelyn Etherton, Macy Kellstrom and Brooke Nowiski.

OSCODA — For the first time in school history, the Oscoda girls basketball team can call itself district champion.

The magical run for the Owls continued on Friday with a 65-47 victory over North Star League rival Alcona in a Division 3 district championship game at Oscoda High School.

“It’s very special. A lot of these girls have been on the team for several years and have experienced rough times for our program, but over the years, this group of girls has kept working and kept fighting and we’ve learned how to win,” Oscoda coach Mark Toppi said. “The girls bought in and kept working together as a team and to get to where we are now, to win our first district championship in program history is really special.

Nothing came easy for the Owls who had to battle all night against an Alcona team that entered the night as winners of the last two district championships.

The Tigers scratched and clawed all game and gave Oscoda all it could handle in the first half.

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Oscoda girls basketball coach Mark Toppi holds up a Division 3 district trophy before handing it to his team on Friday at Oscoda High School.

Alcona showed no fear throughout the night and was ready to give the undefeated Owls all they could handle.

The Tigers took a 7-2 lead in the first few minutes of the game, but Oscoda found a way to respond, answering with six unanswered points of its own to take a lead.

The two teams went back and forth for the remainder of the quarter, but it was Alcona who held a 13-10 advantage after one quarter of play.

“Hats off to Oscoda and they earned it. They have really worked hard, so congratulations to them. We’ve had this for a couple of years, now they have it and we have to work hard to get it back from them,” Alcona coach Mark Feldhiser said. “It was a great basketball game and we hung with them. We had a great effort and I’m proud of the way the girls played tonight and they gave it all they had.”

The Tigers took their largest lead of the night after scoring the first five points to open the second quarter.

Alcona held a lead for much of the quarter, but the final seconds of the first half were exhilarating as Oscoda’s Macy Kellstrom buried a three with 5.8 seconds to go to put the Owls ahead 25-24. Alcona got the inbound to Megan Grove who dribbled past Oscoda defenders and let a shot fly from just inside half court that went in and sent the Tiger bench and crowd into a frenzy as Alcona took a 27-25 lead into the break.

“The interesting thing about the half court shot, Megan had just made a mistake, letting her girl score a three point shot at the other end, but it was a great shot and she practices those quite a bit and (it’s the) first time all year that she hit one, but our effort was fantastic in the first half,” Feldhiser said. “We wanted to be aggressive offensively and we were in the first half.”

Despite trailing at the half and being in a battle, the Owls stayed calm, revved up the defensive pressure and began getting shots to fall.

The Owls scored six of the first eight points of the third quarter to take the lead back, but Alcona kept responding and doing everything it could to stay in the game. Oscoda got a huge momentum boost in the final seconds as Brooke Nowiski buried a three at the buzzer to give the Owls a 40-35 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

“We just told the girls at the half that they (Alcona) needed more than one lucky three at the end of the half to beat us. The girls weren’t even worried about it and blew that off,” Toppi said. “Alcona played good and they’re a lot bigger than us and we knew we had to shoot it good because we didn’t get a lot of rebounds early. We were able to force more turnovers in the second half and make some more shots. We didn’t get nervous, we stayed confident and put together a good second half.”

The Owls began pulling away in the fourth quarter and got some big shots to fall early as Oscoda opened up a double digit lead with just over five minutes to play.

Alcona ran into foul trouble early in the second half and were forced to foul after falling behind. The Owls cashed in at the charity stripe though, making 9-of-12 free throws in the final two and a half minutes to close the game out strong to capture its first district title in school history, while winning their 22nd game in a row.

“We had two goals at the beginning of the year. One of them was to win the North Star League Big-Dipper and the other was to win districts. We never once thought about going undefeated. We thought our record could be very good and we could win a lot of games,” Toppi said. “The longer the season went on, the better effort we would get from teams we played. When you’re undefeated you get everyone’s best effort and we have had that target on our backs. We’ve obviously had some pressure on us, but these girls put a lot of pressure on themselves because they expect to win.”

Oscoda once again got a balanced effort from their starting five as four of the five starters scored in double figures.

Leading the way was Katelyn Etherton who poured in a game-high 20 points. Kellstrom finished with 15 points, Izzy Hulverson added 11 points, Lauren Langley recorded 10 points and Nowiski chipped in with nine.

Alcona was led by Hailee Gordy who scored a team high 14 points, Liz Henderson added 12 points and Grove finished with 10 points.

The Owls advance to Monday’s regional semifinal game against Lake City (19-2) at McBain High School at 7:30 p.m.

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

OSCODA (65): M. Kellstrom, 4 5-6 15; K. Etherton, 7 6-11 20; I. Hulverson, 4 2-2 11; B. Nowiski, 3 1-2 9; L. Langley, 3 4-4 10.

ALCONA (47): H. Gordee, 6 0-0 14; F. Wallenmaier, 3 0-0 7; M. Grove, 3 2-2 10; R. Layton, 2 0-0 4; L. Henderson, 6 0-1 12.