IM gets hot, clips Eskymos

IRON MOUNTAIN – Iron Mountain came to life in the fourth quarter and slipped past Escanaba 50-44 in non-conference boys basketball Tuesday.

The Mountaineers, triggered by Luke Zambon’s 24 points and 11 rebounds, trailed 37-33 early in the final stanza.

“The kids just kicked into another gear,” Mountaineer coach Bucky Johnson said. “That was a big fourth quarter and a bunch of guys stepped up to make some gutty plays.”

Back-to-back buckets from Zambon put Iron Mountain on top 39-38 with 4:12 remaining.

The Eskymos threatened but could not catch the Mountaineers from there.

“I thought we were in control to win the game,” Eskymos coach Tracy Hudson said. “But we lost our composure and got away from what we were doing.

“This is a low point for us because this was a game where I thought we matched up pretty well with Iron Mountain.”

Gerry Pirkola, with three first-half triples, tallied 15 Mountaineer points. Taylor Huotari chipped in seven points, including six straight free throws in the last 68 seconds, along with five assists and three steals.

The Mountaineers also gained a big fourth-quarter bucket in traffic from Paul Brooks. Sophomore Jake Thomann notched two rebounds and a blocked shot late in the game.

“Luke Zambon was solid all game long taking the ball to the basket,” Johnson said. “It was nice to get Gerry going in the first half (with 10 points). He was looking to score and hit some nice shots.”

Hudson credited the Mountaineers for “mental toughness down the stretch.”

“Zambon, Pirkola and Huotari were real calm all the way through,” Hudson said. “They waited for us to make a few mistakes and made us pay.

“Zambon just killed us all night. When they needed a basket he delivered.”

The Escanaba coach saluted sophomore guard Sam Molnar (team-high 12 points) for another “solid game” and David Falish for his “toughness.”

But mistakes, like missed free throws (9-18) and block-outs on rebounds, plus poor decisions hurt the Eskymos.

“I credit Iron Mountain for their poise but I felt in a lot of ways we gave the game away,” Hudson said. “Crunch time is haunting us.”

Iron Mountain’s man defense limited the Eskymos to 12 points over the final 12 minutes.

Eskymos’ Jamie Hiltunen scored with 29 seconds left to narrow the deficit to 46-44. But Huotari followed with four consecutive free throws.

On Friday, Iron Mountain (10-4) hosts Norway and Escanaba (4-9) takes on Marquette.

Escanaba defeated Iron Mountain 61-42 in the junior varsity game while the Mountaineer frosh downed the Eskymos 42-26.