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Fourth quarter struggles cost Alpena in loss to TC Central

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Cooper Bright soars in for an uncontested layup during the second half of a boys basketball game on Thursday at Alpena High School.

ALPENA–There was no fourth quarter magic this time for the Alpena boys basketball team.

Only a few days removed from a win over Gaylord–a game in which they outscored the opposition 21-13 in the fourth quarter–the Wildcats couldn’t match that same energy on Thursday.

A early fourth quarter run was Alpena’s undoing in a 58-52 home loss to Traverse City Central.

Alpena (1-4, 1-3 Big North Conference) led 42-40 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Trojans took over from there. Central canned a pair of three-pointers and added another two-point basket to take a 48-42 lead with 6:13 remaining.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough to leave the Wildcats playing catch-up the rest of the way. Alpena got to within four several times, but no closer than that.

“I thought we played with great effort really all game. The kids battled and competed,” Alpena coach John Pintar said. “The first half we really played at a high level on both ends of the court and defended well. The second half, we were maybe a step slow on some things.”

A disappointing fourth quarter spoiled an otherwise solid game for the Wildcats. Alpena led 27-21 at halftime and traded leads with Central a handful of times in the third quarter, but couldn’t stick the landing in the final eight minutes.

Cooper Bright paced Alpena with 25 points and Andrew Fisher had 12.

Central’s second-half success was due in part to the play of big men Kadyn Warner, Joshua Burnam and Carson Briggs who got open and converted plenty of chances underneath the basket.

Burnham led the Trojans with 14 points, Briggs had 10 and Warner had six.

“They really got their inside-out game going. That was a huge concern for us was their size advantage inside,” Pintar said. “They started getting some of those easy baskets in and hit enough threes there to make it hard enough to cover that post guy.”

A pair of buckets from Burnham cut into Alpena’s lead early in the third quarter and Central eventually tied the game at 31 when Anthony Ribel canned a triple. The Wildcats gained the lead back three more times in the period, but Central stayed a step ahead and led 40-39 after three quarters.

Austin Prue hit a three-pointer in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter to put Alpena up 42-40, but it was the last lead the Wildcats held.

A basket from Ribel was sandwiched between three-pointers from Miles Smith and Carson Bourdo and Central stayed ahead from there.

The Trojans got the jump on Alpena early, taking an 8-2 lead to start the game. The Wildcats found their bearings from there and outscored Central 25-13 the rest of the half. Bright had 15 first-half points, but Fisher and Christian Wicklund were among several Alpena players to make key shots down the stretch.

Buckets by the two of them in the closing minutes of the half–Fisher on a fastbreak layup and Wicklund converting after Central threw the ball out of bounds–added to Alpena’s lead.

Despite the loss, Alpena has looked impressive in conference play. In its last three conference contests, the difference has been eight points or less.

“Tons of positives tonight (for us) because that’s a good team athletically with top-notch skill,” Pintar said. “For our guys to come out and compete like we did for four quarters is a positive sign. For the most part we’re learning and guys are understanding what it takes to compete at the varsity level.”

Alpena plays at 3 p.m., Saturday at Sault Ste. Marie.

Alpena’s JV team topped Central 47-43. Devin LaMay and Evan Erickson each had 11 for Alpena.

Alpena’s freshman team lost 49-33. Caleb McEwen led Alpena with nine points and Avery Samp and Avery Spicer each had six.

——

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

TC CENTRAL (58): G. Goldkuhle 2 3-3 9; M. Smith 1 0-0 3; B. Van Nes 1 0-0 3; C. Bourdo 2 0-2 5; A. Fibel 3 0-1 8; J. Burnham 7 0-2 14; K. Warner 3 0-0 6; C. Briggs 5 0-0 10.

ALPENA (52): T. Bright 1 0-0 2; A. Fisher 4 4-4 12; M. Mumford 1 0-0 2; A. Prue 2 0-0 5; C. Bright 7 9-12 25; K. Hahn 2 0-1 4; C. Wicklund 1 0-0 2.

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