Itsuto Mantani

Oscoda’s Itsuto Mantani floats in for two points during last week’s home win over rival Tawas Area. 

OSCODA – A blowout win over a rival on Tuesday. A conference championship clinching win on Friday. Throw in the fact that Friday also saw senior Brayden Mallak join the 1000-point club and it is safe to say it was a pretty good week for the sixth ranked Oscoda boys basketball team. 

“It was one of our goals,” head coach Mike Poland said of winning the North Star League Big Dipper the second year in a row. “We have three or four goals and of course that is the first one. It was good to get and I’m glad to get it behind us. We were excited coming in with a chance to clinch and we seemed to play pretty well. We are excited to repeat as conference champions.” 

The Owls league clinching win showed just how dominant they have been on the court this year, as they easily handled second place Rogers City, 77-31. 

Oscoda only turned the ball over four times all night and showed off their defensive prowess as well, scoring 27 points off of 17 Rogers City turnovers. All this translated to Oscoda pulling off its 33rd straight regular season victory. 

“We came out and shot the ball really well again, that was probably the biggest thing,” Poland said. “Rogers City is a good team but they struggled to shoot.” 

The game, which doubled as Oscoda’s winter homecoming had an almost party-like atmosphere, as senior Brayden Mallak scored 27 points in the game, including becoming just the sixth player in program history to surpass the 1000-point mark. 

“We are excited for him, and not only does he have 1000 points now he is the career and season assist leader at Oscoda,” Poland said. “He is also one of the best defenders we have had in a long time. That’s just a compliment to his overall game.” 

To go along with Mallak’s big offensive night, Owen Franklin cashed in on 17 points, Gabe Kellstrom and Gavin Lueck each had 11, Devin Thomas, Michael Gepfrey and Caleb Nagel each had three and Brendan Apsitas netted two. Lueck also had 11 rebounds and there assists, with Franklin and Mallak chasing down six boards each. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 4 the Owls used a strong second half to pull away from rival Tawas Area, 79-51 in a non-league game. This gives Oscoda a season sweep of Tawas for the second year in a row. 

“Were happy about that,” Poland said. “The kids have big goals and we are just trying to take it one game at a time. Tawas is a good team and well coached by Todd Kaems. He always has them prepared and there is no resume better than his.” 

Oscoda went on a 12-0 run in the middle of the first quarter to claim an 18-6 lead, though Tawas rallied with a run of its own to pull within 18-16 after one. 

Franklin and Thomas opened the second with buckets in the paint to extend the lead back out to 22-16 and a basket by Nagel late in the frame lifted Oscoda to a 32-20 edge. 

The Braves hung around by netting the next six points to pull within 32-26, though a Tawas technical foul allowed Franklin to sink a pair of free throws to claim a 34-26 lead entering the break. 

The third started with Mallak sprinting to the hoop for a lay-in and Kellstrom followed with a three to make it 39-26 and Oscoda largely rolled from there. The Owl lead grew to 54-32 on a Gepfrey three pointer and Itsuto Mantani canned a shot from behind the long line to bring the score to 66-36 entering the fourth. 

Kellstrom helped continue the rout with a three in the fourth that made it 77-40 and Gepfrey had Oscoda’s final bucket of the night to bring it to the 79-51 final. 

“I thought we had some chances in the first half to extend our lead but we got a little sloppy with the ball and that hurt us a little bit,” Poland said. “That’s the difference between going up six or eight points at halftime instead of 15 or 20. We talked at the half about staying calm and execute on offense and keep up the good defense and we knew we would extend our lead.” 

Mallak finished with 21 points, six rebounds and three steals, Franklin added 20 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals, Kellstrom added 11 points and six rebounds, Gepfrey had nine points and four steals, Thomas netted six points, Lueck put in five, Nagel finished with four and Mantani had three. 

Oscoda (13-0 overall, 6-0 NSL Big Dipper) battled Alcona at home on Tuesday, makes the trip to Whittemore-Prescott on Friday, plays at home against Hillman on Tuesday and heads to Hale on Friday, Feb. 21.