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The Alpena Community College men’s basketball did everything to put itself in position to win its MCCAA Eastern Conference opener on Saturday.

But in the end, St. Clair was just a step ahead of the Lumberjacks.

Marques Pool sank two free throws with six seconds left and the Skippers edged ACC 100-98 at Park Arena in the conference opener for both teams.

A pair of free throws from Logan Wickert knotted the game at 98 with 15 seconds left, but Pool sank his two shots to put the Skippers ahead. ACC (2-7) had trouble getting in good position for a final shot and Scott Hicks’ last-second three-point attempt fell well short of the mark.

“We played hard for 40 minutes and I’m proud of that. I think our free throws hurt us a bit, but that’s dwelling on the negative and I don’t want to do that,” ACC coach Frank McCourt said. “We just got better by a team that played a little better than we did.”

In a physical, back-and-forth game that saw more than a dozen lead changes and 74 combined free throw shots, St. Clair (8-4) emerged the victor. The Skippers rallied from a seven-point deficit late in the game and took the lead for good with 3:38 remaining.

ACC pulled to within two points of lead twice in the final 34 seconds, but couldn’t take the lead. Stephen Shepard scored with 34 seconds left to make it 96-94, but St. Clair answered back and after Wickert hit two free throws with 24 seconds left, ACC trailed 98-96.

St. Clair was 29-of-41 from the line while the Lumberjacks were 23-of-33.

It was perhaps a little bit of a stinging ending for the Lumberjacks, who led 51-48 at halftime after Travon Howard hit a buzzer beater to break a 48-all tie. ACC led by seven early in the second half, 61-54, but the Skippers always seemed to find a way to answer. Matthew VanDyk led St. Clair with 23 points and was one of five Skippers to reach double figures. Pool finished with 16 points, Matthew Russell had 11 points, Joemar Black had 16 points and Tristian Simmons added 12 points.

Hicks paced ACC with 26 points, Howard added 24, Shepard chipped in with 17 points and Dion Ivery scored 12 points.

The better part of the first half became a game of each time trying to energy of their opponent. ACC erased an early deficit to take an 18-16 lead with 14:01 left. From there, the two sides tied the game eight times before the end of the half before Howard gave ACC the lead.

Howard and William Gates Jr. helped the Lumberjacks pull out to a 61-54 lead early in the first half, but the Skippers outscored ACC 12-9 over the next several minutes and took a 66-63 with 11:44 left when Simmons hit a three-pointer.

ACC took a 76-71 lead with 8:33 left and kept ahead for the next several minutes until the Skippers made another run at the lead. St. Clair took an 86-84 lead with four minutes left before Howard knotted the game 86-86.

“Both teams played the transition games very well,” McCourt said. “Both teams shot pretty well, we just missed it at the end.”

ACC plays at Delta on Wednesday and returns home on Saturday to host Kirtland.

ST CLAIR (100): J. Kiesby 0 3-4 3; M. Pool 4 7-9 16; M. VanDyk 6 11-12 23; M. Russell 4 1-2 11; J. Black 8 0-1 16; T. Lee 3 1-2 8; T. Simmons 3 5-6 12; T. Wright 2 1-4 5; F. Cook 3 0-1 6.

ALPENA (98): W. Gates Jr. 3 0-0 7; S. Shepard 8 1-1 17; T. Howard 8 5-8 24; S. Hicks III 8 7-11 26; D. Ivery 3 5-6 12; K. Bush 1 0-0 2; E. Thompson 1 1-2 3; L. Wickert 1 4-5 7.