News Sports Editor
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Lexi Smith, left, drives past Ogemaw’s Shelby Miller in the first quarter of a girls basketball game on Thursday at Alpena High School.
A strong start by the Alpena girls basketball team on Thursday was just what the Wildcats needed to get their first win of the 2012-13 season.
A 16-0 run in the first quarter, but Alpena ahead 16-3 in the first quarter and kept the Wildcats out front for the remainder of the game as they defeated Ogemaw Heights 53-45 in their Big North Conference opener.
Despite such a big lead, Ogemaw gave the Wildcats (1-2) a battle in the second half, pulling to within seven points in the fourth quarter before falling to make shots in the last few minutes.
The Wildcats have had success against the Falcons since Ogemaw joined the Big North last season, but the battle the Falcons gave Alpena on Thursday might have come as a surprise.
"Ogemaw's been just battling in the league since they joined a couple years ago. I just thought they came out with a lot of intensity," Alpena coach Jenny Poli said. "Thank goodness we jumped out with a 19-point lead in the first quarter. We were able to ride that the whole game because Ogemaw came out in the second, third and fourth quarters."
After Ogemaw scored the first basket of the game, the first quarter belonged to the Wildcats who ran off the next 16 points to take a commanding 16-3 lead. Christina Kollien, who led Alpena with 19 points, scored 11 points during the burst as the Wildcats did a good job moving the ball.
Ogemaw kept up a strong full-court press on defense and though the Falcons trailed 33-18 at the half, they climbed back into the game over the final 16 minutes.
The Falcons turned up the pressure in the second half and outscored Alpena 12-7 in the third quarter. Three baskets by Ogemaw in final two minutes of the third quarter cut Alpena's lead to 10, 40-30 heading into the final period.
"We did have some turnovers. We struggled with guard play, some of the youngsters did, but like we said at the beginning of the season, we're growing and we're getting better and our defense really helped us out by putting some full court on and getting some turnovers," Poli said.
Jenna Talbot and Ami Milligan each added nine points for Alpena.
While Alpena made enough shots to keep a double-digit lead during most of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats struggled at the free-throw line, shooting well under 50 percent.
It was free-throw shooting that helped Ogemaw keep the game close at the end. Midway through the quarter, Ogemaw sank five of six free throws to pull to within nine, 48-37 with 3:16 to play. Then with 1:42 left a basket by Samantha Hasse cut the deficit to seven, 50-43. Over the remaining time, Ogemaw held on to the ball for long stretches and couldn't convert shots when it needed them the most.
A basket from Lizzy Trelfa with 1:25 left and a late free throw from Emma Strong sealed the win for Alpena after a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
Shelby Miller led Ogemaw with nine points and Kennedy Beechum added eight.
Ogemaw defeated Alpena's JV team 33-29. Anjelica Patterson scored seven points and Olivia Cordes and Morgan Allen each added five.
Alpena's freshman team won 42-24. Rachael Marwede led Alpena with 12 points, Morgan Jewell added six and Mykayla Price added five.
ALPENA (53): Barkley 1 0-0 3; Talbot 3 3-7 9; Smith 0 0-3 0; Strong 1 1-2 3; Lay 1 0-0 2; Milligan 4 0-3 9; Teff 1 0-1 2; Trelfa 3 0-0 6; Kollien 8 2-2 19
OGEMAW (45): Hasse 2 2-2 6; Miller 4 1-4 9; S. Killinger 1 5-7 7; Diehl 1 3-7 5; K. Killinger 3 0-0 6; Beechum 3 0-0 8; Meier 1 0-0 2; Denstedt 1 0-0 2