Esky boys can’t recover in time

ESCANABA – A very strong start for the Gwinn Modeltowners was good enough to nullify a fourth quarter rally by the Escanaba Eskymos, and Gwinn came away with the 56-47 non-conference win Thursday evening.

The Modeltowners got everything they wanted in the first quarter, easily working the ball inside and drawing contact to put them on the free throw line.

“That first quarter and a half, we probably played our best basketball of the whole year,” said Gwinn coach Darren Sinnaeve. “Between how we played defense, ran the floor, penetrated the lane, and got good shots inside. We played strong.”

After beginning the game on a 7-0 run, Gwinn continued to run a fast pace and convert Escanaba misses into quick transition buckets. At one point, the Modeltowners were up 21-4.

Early in the second quarter, the Eskymos were able to cut the deficit to 12 after a triple by Jamie Hiltunen. However, that was as close as they got until the fourth quarter.

“I really didn’t like the way we started the game,” said Escanaba coach Tracy Hudson. “We buried ourselves in the first four or five minutes and it just changed the whole game. We let them take control and they had a cushion all night.”

That cushion would become very slim late in the game, but the Modeltowners made sure it was enough to seal the victory.

Gwinn was up 44-25 to begin the fourth quarter, but a quick layup by Dan LaPalm and then a three-pointer from Hiltunen got the Eskymos’ offense going. It was followed by a fast break bucket by Ben Kleiman, and all of a sudden Escanaba was only down 12.

Shortly afterward, Gwinn coach Darren Sinnaeve was called for a technical foul that followed a shooting foul, and Escanaba sent Hiltunen to the line for four free throws. He hit all four, and the Eskymos were picking up steam.

A triple from Brandon Robinette dropped Gwinn’s lead to just 48-40. But the Modeltowners kept some distance with some Luke Sinnaeve and a Derek Reetz layup. The closest Esky got was within seven points, but there was only a minute left in the game by then. Gwinn milked the clock, hit some free throws, and rolled out of Escanaba with the win.

“Escanaba’s got a great bunch of athletes, and they’re going to keep coming at you,” Sinnaeve added. “We knew they were going to make a run, we just tried to survive it. We had some kids step up and hit some big free throws at the end to keep it from getting too close.”

Hiltunen put up a career high for Escanaba with 21 points. Gwinn had three players in double figures; Derek Reetz had 13, Owen DeVooght had 12, and Sinnaeve finished with 10.

Escanaba (5-12), which won the jayvee game 57-44, resumes tonight at Gladstone. Gwinn (13-5) also resumes today at Superior Central.

“That will be a battle,” Sinnaeve said.