Wildcats seize control

A common refrain for the Alpena boys basketball team this season has been that nothing comes easy and that if the Wildcats want something, they’ll have to take it.

On Monday the Wildcats overcame a slow start and seized control when it mattered most to keep their season alive.

Andy Marwede scored 18 points, Tyler Pintar added 12 and the Wildcats got a measure of revenge on Marquette, defeating the Redmen 47-34 in a Class A district quarterfinal at Alpena High School.

The win advances Alpena (19-1) to a semifinal on Wednesday at Traverse City Central. The Trojans beat Petoskey 50-49 in a quarterfinal game.

In a rematch of last year’s district final, it was Alpena who took control of the game in the fourth quarter, outscoring Marquette, 18-7 and keeping up a relentless defensive effort that the Redmen (17-2) had no answer for.

“We’ve been working the offseason trying to get better for this day. We knew they were coming out hot and we had to answer. We’ve been working hard in the offseason for this,” Alpena senior Kaleb Smith said. “I think our unselfish play (that made the difference). We passed the ball around and played great defense.”

The Alpena gym was packed with fans who loudly cheered each Alpena basket and a large number of them rushed the court as the final buzzer sounded.

Alpena led 29-27 after three quarters and proceeded to go on a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter to pull ahead 38-29 with 3:36 left.

A pair of free throws from Andrew Nyquist cut the lead to 38-31, but Alpena eventually pulled out to a double-digit lead and held Marquette to three points the rest of the way.

Marquette’s normally reliable perimeter shooting was nonexistent at times and at other times the Redmen found themselves hounded by Alpena defenders and unable to get open looks. After draining seven threes last year to beat Alpena, Marquette hit just three in this game.

The Redmen jumped out to an 11-4 lead after one quarter, helped out by treys from Brad Brow and Connor Brazeau, but Alpena rallied back and took the lead several times in the period while Marquette ran into some foul trouble.

“There was an opportunity there in the second quarter, we had a seven-point lead and they went on a run to close that gap,” Marquette coach Brad Nelson said. “We missed an opportunity when we had that lead to expand that lead and I think that changes the complexion of the game a lot more.”

Brow paced Marquette with 11 points, Vejas Grazulis added eight and Larry Burnette III chipped in with seven.

A basket from Brow gave the Redmen a 16-14 advantage with 2:17 left in the first half and the Redmen kept Alpena off the board until Pintar drilled a three-pointer with two seconds left to send Alpena to the locker room with a 17-16 lead.

The two sides hardly gave an inch in the third quarter and the lead changed hands four times before the end of the period with neither side leading by more than two points.

But once again, Alpena made the last shot of the quarter and took the momentum along with it. Smith’s basket gave Alpena a 29-27 lead to end the period and scored the first basket of the fourth quarter as Alpena went on its run.

Alpena coach John Pintar praised Marquette for its effort and said Alpena’s competitive drive ultimately pushed them past the Redmen.

“It’s a district game and they’re a great basketball team. As a competitor, you want that shot at that team that knocked us out last year. But I have so much respect for their team and their players that it feels good to beat a team like that,” Pintar said. “Revenge? Yes, but this is a different year and different players.”

ALPENA (47): C. Tucker 3 0-1 6; K. Smith 3 1-2 7; A. Marwede 6 5-6 18; T. Pintar 4 3-5 12; B. Styma 2 0-0 4.

MARQUETTE (34): L. Burnette 3 1-4 7; B. Brow 4 1-2 11; C. Brazeau 1 0-0 3; C. Grant 0 1-2 1; V. Grazulis 3 2-4 8; A. Nyquist 1 2-2 4.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.