Good when it counts
News Sports Editor
Going into the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game against Sault Ste. Marie, Luke Cordes told himself there was no way he was losing his final home game.
As it turns out Cordes and the Alpena boys basketball team will have at least one more game this season.
Cordes scored 21 points and the Wildcats shut down the Blue Devils in the fourth quarter on the way to a 56-41 Class A district semifinal win at Alpena High School.
The win is Alpena’s 10th straight and puts them in a district final on Friday against Marquette, who topped Traverse City Central 54-51 in overtime in the other semifinal.
“I didn’t want this to be my last game. I wanted to end my season here with a win,” Cordes said. “It’s a great win. A great crowd turnout really got us going. We played hard from the start to the end and we’re headed to the district final now.”
The previous two matchups between these two teams have been tight and the third time was no exception. The game was knotted at 28 at halftime and 36 after three quarters. The final quarter however was all Alpena.
Trailing by four late in the third quarter, the Wildcats tied the game with three seconds left thanks to a floater from Tyler Pintar. The two baskets were part of a larger 14-0 run by Alpena that extended into the fourth quarter and gave the Wildcats a 46-36 lead with 4:45 left.
After a scoreless stretch that lasted nearly eight minutes, Sault cut the lead to five with a pair of shots with 3:03 left. Alpena recovered and ended the game on a 10-0 run which was puncuated by a thunderous two-handed dunk from Cordes with 2:14 left that gave Alpena a 50-41 lead.
Alpena (18-4) did a good job defensively in the final period as Sault’s first three trips down the floor ended in turnovers and several more followed over the next few minutes. It was a far cry from the first three quarters which saw the Blue Devils hold the lead several times.
“It’s a tough game. It’s been tough all three times we’ve played them this year and we had the will to win,” Cordes said. “We turned it up on defense and it paid off for us.”
Kyle Root led Sault with 14 points, including eight points in the last three minutes of the first half, but Alpena limited his touches in the second half and he scored just four points. The Wildcats also limited Ray’Shon Anderson to six points after watching him score 20 or more in the first two head-to-head matchups.
The Blue Devils struck hard and fast to open the contest and took an early 9-2 lead as Alpena struggled to get in sync. The Wildcats responded over the next few minutes and trailed 16-13 entering the second quarter.
A pair of buckets from Andy Marwede put Alpena up 24-18 with 4:12 left in the half, but Root helped Sault rally back and a 6-0 stretch to end the half left the game tied.
Kam Fitzek added 12 points for Alpena, Marwede had eight and Pintar had six despite missing a few minutes after he made contact with a Sault player and hurt his already broken nose.
Alpena already had a lot of momentum headed into the final quarter, but head coach John Pintar kept his team focused on the job at hand.
“It was just motivation. We had the motivation and will to step a level up and really take our game to the next level,” Cordes said.
The Wildcats are now headed to their second straight district final and are hoping to bring home their first district trophy since 2008. Alpena lost to Petoskey in last year’s district final, but Cordes said players will be focused headed into Friday.
“We need to stay poised going into the final and stay focused on the task at hand,” Cordes said.
ALPENA (56): Cordes 9 2-2 21; Fitzek 5 2-2 12; Marwede 3 2-2 8; Kendziorski 0 3-5 3; LaCross 0 2-2 2; Styma 1 0-0 2; Pintar 2 2-2 6; Smith 1 0-0 2.
SAULT (41): Bailey 1 0-0 5; Root 6 2-2 14; Ray’nell Anderson 3 2-2 8; Fuller 1 4-4 6; Ray’Shon Anderson 2 0-0 6; James 1 0-0 2.