Spartans survives OHHS boys to stay undefeated in NEMC
WEST BRANCH — If Pinconning is to win its first NEMC boys' basketball title since 2000 it's going to need to win games like Friday's 48-42 gut check at Ogemaw Heights.
The Falcons led almost from the start and held a 39-32 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Pinconning held the Falcons to just three fourth quarter points, took the lead on Casey Pashak's 3-pointer with 2:10 to go and turned the ball over to Andrew Holbrook, who secured the 48-42 Pinny victory at the free throw line.
"I really feel like we stole one," said Pinconning coach Tim Floyd. "The first three and a half quarters we didn't play like we deserved to win."
For Ogemaw Heights it was the second painful loss in three days, the second time a double-digit lead turned into a loss.
"It was a lot like the Gaylord game," said Falcon coach Jon VanOosten. "We need to learn to execute down the stretch. Pinconning did that, hit some big 3's, then spread the floor and got the ball to the guy we really didn't want to foul."
Holbrook hit a big triple of his own to halve a 40-34 Ogemaw lead with under five minutes to play. Anthony Zettel hit a jumper for what would be Ogemaw's final points of the night, and Pashak answered with two free throws. Holbrook scored a fast break bucket to trim the Ogemaw lead to one, and after a Falcon turnover, Pashak drained a triple from the top of the key to give the Spartans their first lead since 7-5 early in the game.
Ogemaw came up empty on its remaining possessions, while Pinny made sure to get the ball to Holbrook, an 83 percent free throw shooter entering the game.
"Holbrook and Casey hit some big shots," Floyd said. "And obviously we feel pretty good whenever Holbrook is on the line."
Holbrook led all scorers with 19 points -- 16 in the second half -- with Pashak adding 17. Holbrook finished 6-of-7 at the charity stripe while Pinny was 15-of-21 (71.4 percent) overall.
Alex Rose had 14 and Zettel 11 for the Falcons (4-5, 2-3).
A 16-2 Falcon run midway through the first half helped the Falcons build a lead that was as large as 23-10 as Rose had eight first quarter points, Zettel, Justin Wejsa and Alex Jennings all hit treys and Ogemaw had three baskets directly off offensive rebounds.
Pinny got back in the game with a 7-0 run to close the half, but the teams traded baskets through the third quarter as the Falcon lead fluctuated between four and nine points.
Ogemaw shot 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) at the line, but turnovers and youthful mistakes in the clutch proved costly.
"We're a young team, and we need to learn to handle close games better," VanOosten said. "It would have made the conference chase a lot more fun if we could have won."
Pinny improved to 10-3 (5-0 NEMC) and holds a two-game lead over Tawas Area and a three-game margin over Ogemaw and Standish-Sterling in the NEMC race.
The Falcons play at John Glenn on Monday, while Pinny can all but wrap up the league title with a win at Tawas on Friday, Feb. 6.