MARQUETTE - After hammering Traverse City Central inside the paint Wednesday in an MHSAA Class A boys district semifinal, Alpena forced Marquette Senior High School to go outside in the District 12 final on Friday night back in the MSHS gymnasium.
Seven 3-pointers later, the Redmen were on their way to the regionals.
"They played better than us tonight. They hit the shots tonight," Alpena head coach John Pintar said. "We tried to make them beat us from the outside and they really did. Credit to them. Their guys knocked down the shots."
Marquette Senior High School’s Mark Pap (42) shoots as Alpena’s Luke Cordes (33) tries to block him during the first quarter of the Class A district tournament championship game played Friday night at the MSHS gymnasium. (Journal photo by Matt Wellens)
Redmen junior guards Brad Brow and Larry Burnette each drained a trio of treys en route to 13-point nights as MSHS won its first district title since 2009 with a 64-50 victory over the Wildcats.
Up next for Marquette is a 7 p.m. regional semifinal on Monday against Muskegon in Gaylord with the regional final scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Cedar Springs against the winner of Hudsonville and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern.
Muskegon topped Grand Haven, 58-50, in its district final on Friday.
"This is one of the best nights of my life," MSHS senior Mark Pap said. "I've been working for this my entire life. I honestly can't explain it. I don't even believe it right now.
"I told all my teammates I'd be crying right now because I wouldn't believe it, but it hasn't even hit me yet."
Just like in Wednesday's overtime victory over TC Central in Marquette, the Redmen jumped out to an early lead while stifling their opponents on the other end with an aggressive defensive attack.
Marquette hit two 3-pointers in the opening three minutes to take a 6-0 lead with the first bucket by Burnette giving head coach Brad Nelson all the confidence in the world moving forward.
"When Larry hit that first 3 to put us up 3-0, I told both of my assistant coaches, I said, 'That's a really good sign,'" Nelson said. "(Burnette) kind of struggled for awhile in a couple games, but I could tell before the game his shot was on. He was burying everything. He was in rhythm. When he can catch it and be square to the bucket, he's an excellent shooter."
A lay-in from the lane by junior Andrew Nyquist gave MSHS an 8-0 lead that eventually was extended to 27-10 with 3:41 left in the first half.
Alpena cut that margin down to 11 at halftime, trailing 29-18, but a 3 by Burnette put MSHS up 33-18 a minute into the second half.
Alpena cut the margin to single digits, 37-28, for the first time since the first half with a single free throw by senior Blair LaCross with 1:21 to play in the third quarter and trailed only 39-30 after three quarters.
A pair of one-minute possessions by MSHS in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter not only ate clock, but resulted in two more buckets from downtown - one by Pap and another by Burnette.
Alpena sophomore Brad Styma hit one of only two 3-pointers by his team with 3:20 to go in regulation to cut the Marquette margin back to eight.
The Wildcats even caught a pair of breaks late with Burnette and senior A.J. Grazulis both fouling out for MSHS with less than three and a half minutes to play.
Nyquist, who was 12 of 16 from the free-throw line, and company were able to crack the Wildcats' press and hit their chances from the charity stripe to preserve the victory.
"We just had to keep up the intensity," Burnette said. "The crowd gets into it really good. The crowd helps out a lot. if we get the crowd into it, we're getting into it and we're staying intense."
Four Redmen, including Burnette and Brow, finished in double figures scoring. Pap led the team with 15 points while Nyquist had 14.
Pap also had 10 of his team's 17 rebounds and six of the Redmen's seven blocks.
For Alpena, 6-foot-8 senior Luke Cordes led with 16 points - only three came in the first half - on five field goals and 6-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line. He is committed to play at Michigan Tech in the fall.
Senior Kameron Fitzek was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 12 points.
"My seniors did a fantastic job playing this year, really came on as the season came on," Pintar said. "They are great leaders and they are great kids. I'm proud to have them represent our school with the way they played this year. They did a fantastic job."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org