Eskymos’ D ramps up the pressure

ESCANABA – The Escanaba girls turned up the pressure Monday night and Menominee wilted.

With a healthy dose of Michelle LaFave, the Eskymos came away with their first Great Northern Conference victory, stifling the Maroons 40-28.

For Menominee coach Lucas Chouinard, this wasn’t the result he wanted coming off a 71-31 defeat to Green Bay Notre Dame on Saturday.

“We didn’t really rotate how we were supposed to, it was very frustrating,” he said. “The middle was wide open for us to hit the cutters and whatnot, and we struggled for a while. We did a better job in the second half, but overall, there were just too many turnovers on the press, which shouldn’t happen.”

Escanaba came out of the gate playing tough defense, as they implemented a full-court press and generated 19 turnovers.

“We’d like a little more pressure on the ball, but the girls were doing a good job staying in it,” said Esky coach Kelly O’Connell. “If we aren’t getting steals or deflections, at least we’re slowing somebody down.”

The Eskymos were also able to get LaFave involved early with seven of her game-high 17 points coming in the first quarter. She hit three of her four free throws and drove for two tough layups.

Escanaba also got good contributions off the bench. Lynsey Collins was a key cog on the press and added four points and Jessica Beauchamp came up with a big three-point play in the first quarter to get the Eskymos on the board.

“Jessie gave us a big three points and in our man defense she did a good job guarding Amanda Pedersen, holding her to five points,” said O’Connell. “Lynsey is very quick and is growing into the varsity level. She gets better every game and you can see her really improving. I liked her effort on the defensive end.”

The Eskymos held a 18-12 advantage at halftime, but it was a tenuous lead at best. The Maroons came out of the break hungry. They launched a 6-0 run with a quick bucket from Pedersen followed by back-to-back field goals from Allia Stewart to knot it up at 18-18 less than two minutes into the third quarter. But later, with the scored tied at 20-20, the Maroons went dry again and the Eskymos capitalized, ending the quarter on an 8-0 run.

The run continued into the fourth quarter with consecutive buckets from Codi Jenshak and LaFave and Esky held their largest lead of the game at 32-20. Jenshak had a six-point effort playing on an injured ankle.

“Codi is coming off an ankle injury against Kingsford and I thought she gutted it out,” said O’Connell. “I’m real proud of Codi. She tweaked it a little in the first half, but she’s a real tough athlete.”

The Maroons threatened to come back only once in the fourth quarter, when Alexys Christian answered Esky’s run with five consecutive points, including the game’s only 3-pointer.

Menominee did get its fair share of steals, and forced 21 Eskymo turnovers, though they were never able to get into their comfort zone.

“The MO of the team, is if we shoot bad, we struggle big time,” he said. “It’s hard to get momentum because we like to press, and it’s hard to press when we don’t make baskets.

“Out of our 1-3-1 we got some good pressure, but if we make a couple baskets, we’re able to extend to the full court, which is what we like to do. It made things a little more difficult not making those baskets. We made some steals, but we didn’t always convert, which also hurt. We had some opportunities and didn’t cash in and we need to do a better job executing down the stretch.”

Menominee (6-5, 1-1 GNC) won the jayvee game 37-29, while Escanaba took the freshmen game 39-17.

Escanaba (3-7, 1-3) will visit Marquette Thursday to face the top-ranked Redettes for the second time in nine days.