Wildcats fall to Gaylord after Gapinski’s late game-winner

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Jade Schultz (11) drives to muscle past Gaylord’s Mackenzie Wilkie during the second half of a girls basketball game on Thursday at Alpena High School.

The first time the Alpena High School girls basketball team played Gaylord this season, the Wildcats rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat Gaylord by three.

On Thursday, it was the Blue Devils’ turn to turn the tables.

Savanna Gapinski scored with 11.9 seconds left, which proved to be enough for the Blue Devils to edge Alpena 48-46 in a Big North Conference contest at Alpena High School.

Gaylord’s Mackenzie Wilkie attempted to drive the lane for a shot with 21 seconds left, but missed on the attempt. The Blue Devils kept the ball however as Alpena corralled the rebound, but was called out of bounds.

On the inbound, Becca Ross got the ball to Rylee Harding and Harding worked the ball back to Ross in the paint. Ross passed to Gapiniski, who drove the lane and made the game-winning shot off the glass.

Alpena called a timeout after getting the ball and missed an outside shot. The ball eventually went out of bounds with a second left on the clock. The Wildcats inbounded the ball and got a shot off, but it fell short.

It was a disappointing ending for the Wildcats (10-9, 4-5 Big North), who led by as many as eight in the third quarter, but had a hard time containing Gaylord down the stretch.

“We lost people in transition and they hit their big shots and they were three points at a time,” Alpena coach Erin Andrews said.

Ross, who finished with 11 points, scored all of them in the second half and eight in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats held Ross and Gapinski in check for the better part of three quarters, but the duo did what they need to in the fourth quarter to help Gaylord win.

“I think they got us in our press in the second half. We pulled out of our press and probably pulled out of it too late,” Andrews said. “Ross and Gapinski, you’ve got to contain them. They’re great players and they’re gamers. When they go off they can go off.”

Alpena scored on three of its first four possessions in the third quarter, pushing its lead to 28-19 with 6:50 left. With their senior duo of Maddie Voltz and Jade Schultz working well inside and scoring consistently, the Wildcats were able to hold the lead into the fourth quarter, but Gaylord refused to concede much ground.

A pair of buckets cut the Wildcats’ lead to four in a matter of 18 seconds and the Blue Devils stayed within three the rest of the third quarter. Alpena ultimately held a 36-31 lead after 24 minutes after a late basket from Voltz.

Voltz paced Alpena with 18 points and Schultz added 15.

Another basket from Voltz early in the fourth quarter gave Alpena a five-point lead, but Gapinski and Ross were just getting warmed up.

Ross opened the quarter with a steal and a score to cut the lead to three and after Voltz’s basket Gapinski made a triple and Ross scored again to tie the game at 38.

The two sides traded the lead several times over the next few minutes, with Voltz finding a way to answer each Gaylord basket on the way to eight fourth quarter points. Alpena eventually took a 46-44 lead. Allie Funk scored out of a tie-up on the floor and Voltz caught a tipped pass for a lay-in with 2:14 left.

Gapinski made a pair of free throws with 1:56 left to tie the game one last time.

With about a minute left, Gapinski tried to find Ross inside for a scoring chance, but the ball sailed out of bounds, giving Alpena possession. The Wildcats were unable to score on the ensuing possession before Gapinski made the game-winner in the closing seconds.

Gapinski led Gaylord with 15 points and Wilkie finished in double figures with 12.

The Wildcats got off to a fast starting, beginning the game on a 9-0 run. The rest of the period proved to be rough though as Gaylord scored the period’s last eight points and took the lead briefly early in the second quarter.

Alpena seized momentum back as Schultz was continually fed passes in the paint and converted on those chances. She finished the second quarter with nine points and had several key buckets to keep the Wildcats ahead. She capped the period by taking a pass from Mollie Girard and making another shot with 23 seconds left to give Alpena a 22-17 halftime lead.

“She (Schultz) cleaned up the boards as much as she could down there and she played really hard,” Andrews said.

Alpena finishes the regular season Friday at home against Traverse City Central at 5 p.m.

Alpena’s JV team won 57-42. Jenna Leeck led Alpena with 26 points, Alayna Trelfa had nine and Elyse Clarke had eight.

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BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free throws made/Free throws attempted/Total Points

GAYLORD (48): S. Gapinski 5 2-2 15; K. Kruger 1 1-2 3; R. Harding 3 0-2 6; M. Wilkie 4 4-4 12; L. Schrader 0 1-2 1; B. Ross 4 2-4 11.

ALPENA (46): M. Voltz 8 2-2 18; M. Girard 2 0-0 5; J. Schultz 7 1-1 15; A. Young 1 0-0 2; J. Leeck 1 0-0 2; Al. Funk 2 0-0 4.