TAWAS CITY – It was kind of expected. Winning their Division 3 district championship on their home court still felt pretty good for the Tawas Area boys basketball team however. The Braves, hosting Alcona in the district title game Friday, were able to avoid the upset minded Tigers, pulling away from them as the night went on, pulling off a 65-41 victory and their second straight district championship.
“It was good and you never know, it is March and crazy things happen in March and we hope some crazy things happen for us,” head coach Todd Kaems said. “I thought we were solid defensively and that was the big difference maker. I thought everything that Alcona got in the first half, they really earned and we only gave up six points in the third quarter, so that was big moving forward. Defensively I thought we were solid and offensively we were on and off, we played solid at times and struggled a bit at other times, but overall, it was a good night.”
Vinnie Frank, one of the Braves’ six talented seniors, helped the team get off to a good start, scoring their first two baskets. He knocked down a three pointer from the left side of the court to open the scoring and he followed that by tracking down an offensive rebound and sending the ball back through for an early 5-2 lead.
“That certainly helped,” Frank said of taking the early lead. “(Winning the district) feels really good. We’ve been working at this since second grade and it is nice to have a special bond between the guys. (Alcona is) definitely a solid team and we didn’t want to think we were going to blow them out, but we were confident going into it. I think we’ll be confident through the whole tournament honestly, we aren’t afraid of anyone.”
A lay-up by Granite Barringer and a three by Jake Look put Tawas ahead 10-4. The Tigers answered with a three of their own to make it 10-7, but Look capped off the quarter extended their gap to 13-7 after one.
In the second, Evan Mochty had a nice three-point play. He stole the ball under the Tawas basket, then flipped the ball in for a quick hoop. He was also fouled on the play, and knocked down the free throw for the and-one and 16-9 Tawas lead.
Alex Kaems scored his first points of the night with a three at 19-10 and back-to-back threes by Kaems and Ethan Hedglin made it 29-14 late in the half.
Alcona did net the final points of the frame, putting it to 29-16 at the break.
Hedglin kept the hot hand in the third, as he sank two quick threes to make the gap 35-16 and Alcona could never make a run at the Braves from there.
“I think that is because defensively we rotated well and rebounded well and it is hard to make a run when a defense is playing well,” Kaems said. “I thought our intensity and energy was good all night and we never allowed them to make a run.”
Already leading 40-22 late in the third, Tawas all but put the game to bed with an impressive spurt in that quarters’ final moments. Look had an and-one play, Hedglin canned another three and Look finished off a transition opportunity on a nice pass from Barringer. Frank capped it off with a steal on the defensive end and fast-break lay-in at the buzzer for a 50-22 advantage entering the fourth.
Hedglin hit another three pointer in the fourth and finished with 17 points to lead the Braves. Look netted 13, adding 11 apiece was Barringer and Kaems, Frank put in nine, Mochty had three and Quin Klenow added one.
“I think the expectation was that we would win a district this year and we have a good shot at winning the regional, and that is where we are at,” Kaeams said. “Finishing 12-0 at home is nice, back-to-back district champions is nice and it was just a solid team effort and even our bench guys, they don’t get in the game but I love the energy from them and they have become a big part of it.”
Tawas reached the championship game, thanks to an 80-60 win over Whittemore-Prescott in Wednesday’s semifinal contest.
Frank had six first quarter points and Hedglin put in five, allowing Tawas to lead 17-7 after one. Hedglin had five more points in the second and Barringer and Frank had four points apiece. Mochty also hit a three as it was a 35-23 Tawas lead at the break.
In the third, Frank scored 11 points and Mochty netted seven, as the lead grew to 56-39 entering the fourth.
Frank was able to net five more points in the fourth and finish with 25, Hedglin hit a fourth quarter three and had 19 on the night, Mochty put in 13, Barringer added 12, Look had eight, Sherman Hayes finished with two and JT Bond scored one.
Tawas (19-5 overall) took on St. Ignace (20-4) on Monday in a regional semi-final game at Gaylord. Ishpeming (13-10) and Menominee (14-10) met in the other semifinal, with the regional championship contest taking place today (Wednesday) at Sault Ste. Marie. The regional winner advances to a quarterfinal game on Tuesday, scheduled to be held in Gaylord.