Alpena survives foul trouble, late Oscoda rally to win opener
OSCODA — Alpena spent most of its season opening girls’ basketball contest at Oscoda with a lead hovering around double-digits.
Some foul trouble and a hard-playing Oscoda team made things tense for the Wildcats in the closing minutes, but they managed to make just enough plays to escape with a 57-53 victory.
“It was too close at the end, but (Oscoda head coach Mark Toppi) is an amazing coach and I knew going in they were a good group of girls and they were going to battle all the way to the end,” Alpena coach Laura Dubey said. “I knew, even if we were up 15, that it wouldn’t matter. He is a great guy and he knows his basketball and it showed at the end.”
A three by Avery Dubey from the left corner drained through to give Alpena (1-0) a 52-43 led with about five minutes remaining. Dubey was hampered by foul trouble the rest of the game though, picking up her fourth just moments later. She was called for her fifth foul with just over two minutes to play.
Oscoda (0-1) cashed in on her fifth foul, sinking a pair of free throws to close the gap to 55-49. A free throw on the Owls’ next trip down the court whittled the lead down to 55-50.
“You have to play through that (foul trouble),” Dubey said. “You can yell and scream, you can do whatever you want, but you have to play through that; and they did.”
With 58 seconds left Oscoda missed on a pair of free throws that would have cut the lead to a single possession. After the second shot rimmed off, Olivia Precord hauled in a contested rebound. Alpena turned that into what was effectively the game-sealing basket as it worked the ball down to Reagan Fitzpatrick in the paint for a 57-50 lead.
The Owls did make three free throws in the final 13 seconds to make the final a bit closer; but Dubey was just happy to leave Oscoda’s gym with a victory.
“We played through it,” she said. “We did a good job looking inside and getting rebounds and putting it back up and our free throws, we were 12-of-18 from the line and that was amazing; I was proud of that.”
The Wildcats never trailed in this one; taking an early 8-4 lead on a hoop by Reese Wisniewski and led 12-6 after a short-range basket by Fitzpatrick.
Oscoda answered with an and-one play and a fast break tally to pull within 12-11 after one, but the Wildcats were able to get some breathing room in the second.
They started that frame off with a shot near the basket by Precord and a trey by Dubey to make it 17-11, and Precord also closed out the quarter with a bucket in the paint to make it 27-19 at the half.
Precord, who led Alpena with 14 points, got things going in the third as well, as she made a nice move and finish to the basket to push the margin to 29-19. A drive through the lane by Dubey and a three by Keira Prue made the Wildcat lead 35-22 and Alpena took its biggest lead of the game late in the quarter on a rebound and put-back by Precord at 41-27.
Oscoda pulled within 44-36 on a three by Mia Whipkey, but Dubey struck right back with a three of her own to make it 47-36 entering the fourth.
The Owls had a three by Ava Gooch that trimmed it to 47-41, but a basket by Marah Wisniewski and Dubey’s final three of the night put Alpena ahead 52-43 and they closed it out from there.
“We struggled a little bit getting the ball to the wings and we adjusted and they did a good job coming back from (that),” Dubey said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and they listened and I was happy about that. I had some kids step up and play really good ball.”
Along with Precord’s 14 points, Dubey finished with 13, Reese Wisniewski netted 12, Prue finished with 10 and Fitzpatrick added six. Marah Wisniewski chipped in with two.
The Wildcats return to action on Tuesday, when they head to Cadillac for their Big North Conference opener. They had two memorable games with the Lady Vikings last winter, one an overtime loss at home and the other a win on the road.
“That is going to be tough,” Dubey said. “We split with them last year and it is going to be a tough one again this year. Hopefully we can get a win down there.”