LINCOLN-Being a relatively young team hasn't stopped the Alcona girls basketball team from winning quite a few games this season.
After a season-opening loss to Posen, the Tigers have reeled off nine straight wins, the latest of which came on Saturday over Alpena. Led by Karina Cole's 30 points, the Tigers topped the Wildcats 68-44 at Alcona High School.
After a first-quarter shootout that ended in a 16-16 tie, the Tigers (9-1) took firm control of the game with an offense that attacked from all angles and a smothering defense that didn't allow the Wildcats many easy shots.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alcona’s Kendra Cole, center, puts up a shot while being defended by Alpena’s Lizzy Trelfa (22) and Emma Stong (11) during the first half of a girls basketball game Saturday at Alcona High School.
"We played exceptional tonight. We finally are getting our young players playing at the same level as our all of our other players," Alcona coach Brad Cole said. "We've been working extra, extra hard on defense. We like to score points, but we also like to play defense and tonight was the night for that."
While the Tigers seemingly couldn't miss many shots, at times Alpena (4-8) struggled to make any shots at all. Alcona outscored the Wildcats 17-6 in the second quarter to take a 33-22 lead at the half and then dominated the third quarter, besting Alpena 24-6.
After a stretch that included Big North Conference wins over Ogemaw Heights and Traverse City Central, it was a tough way to end the week for the Wildcats. Alpena shot just 6-of-14 from the free-throw line and played a considerable stretch of the second half without leading scorer Christina Kollien, who battled illness and foul trouble.
It's been a great week of basketball for us and we probably overlooked them. They just came out on fire, they couldn't miss," Alpena coach Jenny Poli said. "We couldn't get anything to go our way."
Kollien led Alpena with eight points, Megan Barkley added seven and Emma Strong and Ami Milligan each had six.
Karina Cole got going early for the Tigers, sinking four triples in the first half and finishing with 18 first-half points. While Karina is often a tough matchup for most teams, the Wildcats also had to contend with the likes of Kendra Cole who finished with eight points and was a defensive stalwart in the interior, stopping several Alpena attempts to drive the ball inside.
Karina also finished with five rebounds and six steals while Kendra added 10 rebounds.
Alcona also helped its cause at the free-throw line, sinking 24-of-32 attempts.
With a double-digit lead in hand at the end of the first half, Alcona kept its momentum going in the third quarter, putting together a 14-0 run that lasted nearly three minutes and cemented an already solid lead. Nikki Smith, Turner Somers and Nicole Walen were among the Alcona players that contributed to the run and by the end of the period, the Tigers held a 57-28 lead.
Alpena continued to struggle and could not get many shots to fall and were limited to just three field goals in the period. Kollien picked up her fourth foul with 1:05 left in the quarter and sat the rest of the game.
Alpena outscored Alcona 16-11 in the final period, with Barkley scoring all of her points against several of Alcona's bench players.
After the game Poli said basketball is simply a game of breaks and her team didn't get very many of them.
"Alcona got a lot of breaks tonight. We gave them lots of little fouls, they're shots we're going in and we couldn't get anything; Thursday we got them. Sometimes it's a game of breaks," she said.
Kollien and Strong helped Alpena get out to a 14-9 lead with 2:32 left in the opening quarter, but Karina answered back with a pair of treys that briefly gave Alcona a 16-14 lead, before Kollien tied the game with a last-second basket.
Alpena's JV team defeated Alcona 47-22. Morgan Allen led Alpena with nine points and Jen Mainville and Rachel Zolnierek each had eight points. Sam Schopher led Alcona with nine points and Katelynn Nelson added seven.
ALCONA (68): Smith 1 2-2 4; Ka. Cole 10 6-6 30; Carpenter 1 1-3 3; Quick 1 2-2 4; Campell 1 0-0 2; Pierce 0 3-4 3; Somers 1 3-5 5; Maddie Feldhiser 1 1-2 3; Walen 2 2-2 6; Ke. Cole 2 4-6 8.
ALPENA (44): Barkley 3 1-4 7; Talbot 2 0-2 4; Strong 3 0-0 6; Lay 0 0-2 0; Milligan 2 2-2 6; Teff 1 0-0 2; Hatch 1 3-4 5; Trelfa 3 0-0 6; Kollien 4 0-0 8.