The Alpena boys basketball team has already accomplished one of its goals for the season, clinching at least a share of the Big North Conference title after beating Traverse City West on Monday.
Now the Wildcats want the title all to themselves.
A win tonight at Petoskey would give the Wildcats (15-1, 9-1 Big North) their second outright conference title in program history, nearly four years to the day after they won their first one.
Alpena also won the conference title during the 2007-2008 season, defeating West in its final conference game on Feb. 22, 2008 during an eight-game win streak.
The Wildcats already defeated Petoskey (11-6, 7-3 BN) once this season, topping the Northmen 67-61 on Jan. 17. Alpena is no less motivated to beat Petoskey again, but coach John Pintar knows the Northmen will also be hungry to avenge that loss.
"Our guys want it. They want this thing and I said you've got to go out and take it, so I expect a really good game and I think our guys will show up," Pintar said. "It's going to be an all-out assault. It's on their floor. This is their outside shot at maintaining a share if we were to lose our last two league games. There's no doubt, on their floor on a Friday, this is everything.
Pintar and the Wildcats have taken a one game at a time approach to the season, but Alpena's 15 game win-streak has grown more captivating with each win. Through it all, Alpena has looked downright impressive much of the time and has surprised and overwhelmed teams with a balanced offense, strong defense and a competitiveness that's been tough to match.
Andy Marwede helped Alpena outlast the Northmen in January and has shown a knack for big performances and clutch plays. Against Petoskey, his two free throws helped Alpena seal the win. Last week he dropped 41 points on Cheboygan in one of the highest single-game performances in school history. On Monday against West, he took a pass from Brad Styma and scored on a putback with two seconds left to give Alpena a 72-70 win.
Marwede's prowess at both ends of the floor combined with the efforts of Styma, Tyler Pintar, Dylan Hoes and Alpena's other players have the Wildcats on their biggest roll in years and their hoping to do everything possible to keep it going.
"What I like is that I've got a competitive team that understands that (the high stakes). We've answered challenges all year and I think Friday's going to be a great high school basketball game," Pintar said. "If we play the way we've been playing, hopefully the result goes our way."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.