Esky JV/Freshman boys experience success

ESCANABA – The Escanaba freshmen and jayvees were able to take plenty of positives away from the 2012-13 basketball season as they finished 12-4 and 14-6, respectively.

Both teams were also Great Northern Conference runners-up at 5-3.

The freshmen finished with four straight wins, including a 60-41 conquest of Menominee on Feb. 25.

“That was a very good season,” said freshman coach Kirk Schwalbach. “We had a real good group of kids who attended team camps, and they’re pretty good basketball players. We were pretty optimistic coming into the season.”

Menominee won the first meeting 71-39 on Jan. 7.

“They couldn’t miss and we could hit anything down there,” said Schwalbach. “They half-court trapped us a lot and a full-court press when they scored. We didn’t handle their press, and I think that opened the kids’ eyes. We wanted to play a better game against them up here.”

The Eskymos also dropped a pair to GNC champ Kingsford (54-51 and 54-45) and fell at Iron Mountain 42-26 on Feb. 5.

“The three teams we lost to were pretty good teams,” said Schwalbach.

Dan VanEffen, a 6-foot-2 forward, averaged 12 points a game.

“Dan scored in double digits in 10-of-16 games,” said Schwalbach. “He loves to play and was very consistent. We knew Dan was going to show up every night. He was also a good leader in practice. He works hard and is very coachable. He wants to get better.”

Providing inside help were 6-2 center Nick Becotte and 6-0 forward Andrew Stannard.

“Nick had an opportunity to play a lot and really stepped up for us this season,” said Schwalbach. “I know he had a big game at Gladstone (19 points in a victory on Feb. 22) and Andrew was pretty consistent. He scored in every game except the last one (a victory over the Rapid River jayvees).”

Logan Lamb provided stability at point guard, with Billy Baribeau sharing the backcourt duties.

“Logan is a tough kid and a real competitor,” said Schwalbach. “His work ethic was phenomenal. He kept pushing him. It was nice to have a point guard who was out to win. Billy is another kid who really works hard. He had his best game against Menominee (18 points at home).”

Reserve guard T.J. Schlenvogt led the Eskymos in free throw shooting percentage at 73.

“T.J. is a good shooter and gave us a lot of energy off the bench,” said Schwalbach.

Also helping in reserve roles were center Bryant Beem, forwards Nick Wilson and Matt Gardner, guards Joey Dubord and Chris Johnson and manager/forward Andrew Lippens, who suited up for home games.

“Every kid on the team scored and they all started in at least one game,” said Schwalbach. “The kids showed a lot of character all year. We also had great support from their parents.”

For the jayvees, the conference title boiled down to the final game on Feb. 22 in which the Eskymos dropped a 66-62 decision at Gladstone.

“It was a great experience for the kids to be playing for something at the end of the season,” said jayvee coach Scott Hanson. “We started 4-0 in the GNC. I think we stole a few early. We were down by 10 in the third quarter at Marquette and won in overtime (59-56 on Dec. 18). We also swept Menominee (61-52 and 59-37). It has been a lot of years since we did that.”

The Eskymos were led by sophomore guard Chris Rose, who averaged 13 points. Backcourt mate Tyler Hardwick and 6-1 forward averaged 8 1/2, with guard Tyler Scufka at seven.

“Either of our starting guards could play the point,” said Hanson. “The were our main ballhandlers and two of our main scorers. Jake had a knack of being around the basket and made tremendous strides this season, and Tyler Scufka was our main outside threat.”

Also playing a major starting role was 6-1 freshman center-forward Brandon Punzel.

“Brandon is a pretty smart player,” said Hanson. “He was probably our leading rebounder.”

Sophomores sharing time at center were 6-3 Corey Dahn and Sam Taylor and 6-0 Chad Leisenring. “These guys gave us some toughness inside,” said Hanson.

Helping in reserve roles were 5-11 sophomore forwards Lewis Ostrander and Jimmi McNeil and guard Richard Yong.

“They provided some energy and gave us quality minutes off the bench,” said Hanson. “The kids in general are well prepared for varsity. They were easy to coach. They were lifting twice a week during the through the season, which was an important part of our conditioning. They’re getting stronger.”