Finishing things right
Finish what you started.
That’s the approach the Alpena boys basketball team is taking tonight as it hosts Traverse City West in a Class A district final at 7 p.m.
Finish off a week that’s seen the Wildcats topple a 17-2 Marquette team and run by Traverse City Central. Continue a win streak that’s now reached double digits and bring a district title back to Alpena for the first time since 2008 in front of the hometown crowd.
“It’s a little bit (challenging), but our team knows how to bear down and not mess around on the court,” Alpena junior guard Tyler Pintar said. “It’s an incredible feeling, play in front of our home crowd. Hopefully we can go out and get the job done.”
Alpena (20-1) has already beaten the Titans twice this season. The Wildcats topped West 72-55 on Feb. 4 in Alpena, but then had to rally back and win in overtime against West the second time, 72-70, on Feb. 17.
The old adage says it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season though and the Wildcats know West has the talent to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“It’s a very skilled team. We know they can score,” Alpena coach John Pintar said. “They have excellent guards that can shoot and size inside to give you problems.”
West (11-10) started the season with a 2-7 record, due in part to a rash of injuries. The Titans have gone 9-3 since then and the return of Alex Scott to the Titans’ backcourt among others has provided a boost.
Together with Stephan Sheppard, Scott forms a formidable guard tandem for West that distributes well, but can also turn on the jets offensively. Sheppard canned 20 points, including four triples, in West’s 77-57 win over Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday. Scott added 10 points and six assists. As facilitators, the pair often gets the ball inside to Thiyo Lukosa and lets him go to work. Lukosa added 15 points against Sault.
Alpena held the duo in check the first time around, limiting them to a combined 22 points, but Scott scored 18 points in the second meeting.
“They have that 1-2 combo in the backcourt. Those two can combine for 30-plus easily,” John said.
As talented as the Titans’ duo is, Alpena has a high-scoring tandem of its own in Pintar and senior forward Andy Marwede. The pair has led Alpena’s charge all season, giving the Wildcats a solid inside-outside combo.
Marwede, the leading scorer in the Big North Conference, scored 21 in Alpena’s win over Central and Pintar was right behind him with 19. Against Marquette, Marwede led the Wildcats with 18 points and again Pintar was right behind him with 12. Their success and ability to get teammates involved has helped make players like Brad Styma, Cody Tucker, Dylan Hoes and Kaleb Smith vital parts of Alpena’s system among others.
With the opportunity to play in front of its home crowd for the second time in a week, the Wildcats will almost certainly enjoy the atmosphere tonight, but they’ll still be focused on the task at hand.
“It’s going to be a great environment. This is what you dream of when you participate in sports: to play these types of games,” John said. Our motto has been take what you want and Traverse City West isn’t going to come over and lie down. That’s been our goal (winning a district title) and we’re going to try and stay hungry and finish what we started.”
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.