Wildcats put forth strong performance, despite falling to unbeaten Freeland

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena guard Tucker Bright (11) goes to the basket for a layup while being contested by a host of Freeland defenders during the first quarter of a boys basketball game on Tuesday at Alpena High School.

ALPENA — The Alpena High boys basketball team entered Tuesday’s non-conference contest against unbeaten Freeland knowing it faced arguably its toughest matchup to date.

The Wildcats (6-3) gave Freeland (8-0) all it could handle, but came up on the short end of a 53-50 loss against one of Division 2’s top teams.

“Freeland is a very good basketball team and I thought for both teams this was a good non-conference test. They’re a team that scores a ton of points and I thought we did a really good job defensively. The biggest difference in the second half was our turnovers,” Alpena coach John Pintar said. “We built up a lead, but we turned the ball over too much and it led to points for them. Down the stretch it came down to who was going to make more big plays and unfortunately for us, they were able to make the big plays.”

Alpena played strong defensively much of the night and had the Falcons on the ropes through three quarters. But Freeland opened the fourth with a pair of three-point plays to tie the game 40-40 with 5:18 to play.

Tucker Bright hit a go-ahead three to break the tie, but the Falcons responded with nine straight to take a 49-43 lead with under two minutes to play. That run proved to be crucial.

The Wildcats did all they could to claw back in the final minute and a half.

Bright hit another big three to cut the lead to 51-50 with 10.3 seconds left and give Alpena a chance.

Josh Elliott was fouled intentionally and made a pair of clutch free throws with 5.8 seconds left to give Freeland a 53-50 lead as the Wildcats inbounded the ball, got it into the hands of Cooper Bright who hoisted up a deep three at the buzzer.

But Alpena’s prayers for overtime weren’t answered and the Falcons escaped with their first single digit victory of the year as the Wildcats proved to be Freeland’s toughest test to date.

The Wildcats gave Freeland all it could handle in the first half, going back and forth with the Falcons, refusing to let the game get out of reach.

Alpena held a 14-13 lead after one quarter before the Falcons opened the second scoring the first seven points and held a 22-16 lead midway through the quarter, but the Wildcats clamped down defensively and held Freeland scoreless over the final three minutes and scored six unanswered points to close the half and tie the game 22-22 at the break.

Alpena came out of the locker room with the same defensive intensity in the third quarter, regaining the lead with the first six points to begin the third while holding the Falcons scoreless over the first two and a half minutes to begin the second half.

The Wildcats put together another string quartet and held a 37-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“Our guys competed and kept fighting all night. We have a good basketball team and we just have to learn from this and make those plays to finish games,” Pintar said. “We’re competitive and we’ll compete with anybody. For us it’s just about limiting the mistakes in games like this. I’m pleased with where we’re at, but we have to keep getting better.”

The Bright brothers paced Alpena as Cooper led all scorers with a game-high 23 points while Tucker added 19 points.

Alex Duley led Freeland with a team high 20 points and Elliott finished with 15 points.

The Wildcats return to the court Friday when they host Big North Conference rival Gaylord.

The Alpena JV team lost 45-38. Avery Samp led the way with 12 points in the game.

The Wildcat freshman team fell by a score of 38-27. Owen Kaiser scored a team-high 11 points for Alpena.


BOX SCORE: Field Goals Made/Free Throws Made/Free Throws Attempted/Total Points.

FREELAND (53): A. Duley, 8 4-5 20; J. Kundinger, 1 0-0 3; B. Huckeby, 3 2-3 10; J. Kowalski, 2 0-0 5; J. Elliott, 5 3-4 15.

ALPENA (50): C. Bright, 9 2-3 23; A. Prue, 1 0-0 2; T. Bright, 7 2-2 19; R. Voltz, 2 0-0 4; D. LaMay, 1 0-0 2.


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