Nine and counting

GAYLORD-The Alpena boys basketball team found the perfect way to win its district opener on Monday: build a big lead and let the opponent try and stop them.

The Wildcats rolled over Gaylord 64-40 in a Class A district game on Monday at Gaylord High School, behind a red-hot offense that built sizable margins in the first and fourth quarters and never really seemed to tire.

The win marked the ninth straight for the Wildcats (17-4) who will host Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday in a district semifinal.

Luke Cordes led Alpena with 20 points, Andy Marwede added 19 and Jake Kendziorski chipped in 10.

“It’s everything. I told our guys that were going to get everything from Gaylord and they did. They used their bench, they brought everybody in, they tried everything and just kept coming all night,” Alpena coach John Pintar said. “When you’re on the road against an underdog, you have to take their will away early and I thought that was huge.”

Alpena is known for imposing its will in the paint, but early on the Wildcats got things going from the perimeter. Marwede opened the game with a pair of three-pointers and scored Alpena’s first 11 points. With sophomore guard Tyler Pintar back in the lineup, Alpena was able to mix it up on offense and worked the ball inside to Cordes and Marwede, but also kept firing from outside and knocked down five first-half treys.

“That was the key. We really emphasized coming out strong and it was even better than we could expect,” Pintar said. “Andy came out firing the ball and Andy’s a good shooter. Tonight he stepped up and gave us a huge lift early.”

The Blue Devils struggled against Alpena’s size and speed in the first half and trailed 26-7 at the end of one quarter after Alpena ended the period on an 8-0 run. Gaylord made just two field goals in the second quarter, but did find success at the free-throw line, going 8-for-8. The Blue Devils finished the game 11-for-13 from the charity stripe.

Alpena led 38-20 at the half.

Gaylord was able to generate offense a little more consistently in the third quarter as the Blue Devils outscored Alpena 18-15 in the period. A pair of triples by Tyler Cherry early in the period cut into Alpena’s lead, but the Wildcats regrouped and worked the ball inside again to Cordes who scored 10 points in the quarter.

Zach Lundell scored two baskets in the final minute of the quarter to leave Gaylord trailing 53-38, but the Blue Devils’ offense dried up from there. Alpena outscored Gaylord 11-2 in the final quarter as numerous outside shots by the Blue Devils either missed the mark completely or rimmed out.

Cherry led Gaylord with 11 points and Tyler Frisch and Lundell each added eight points.

The comfortable lead allow Alpena to rest its starters for a portion of the final quarter and bench players such as Jacob Benson and Ethan Crowell came in and contributed to the win.

With nine straight wins, Alpena is playing some of its best basketball at the right time and hosting a playoff game comes as an added bonus for the Wildcats at this point.

“We’re used to playing the Sault.They’re a physical team, they’re a good basketball team. We’ve had two good games with them so far this year,” Pintar said.

ALPENA (64): Marwede 8 0-0 19; J. Kendziorski 4 0-0 10; Cordes 9 2-4 20; Pintar 4 1-2 9; LaCross 1 0-0 2; Styma 0 1-2 1; Benson 1 0-0 2; Crowell 0 1-2 1.

GAYLORD (40): Frisch 2 3-3 8; Watters 1 4-6 6; Cherry 3 2-2 11; Lundell 3 2-2 8; Baker 1 0-0 2; Stout 1 0-0 3; Huey 1 0-0 2.