Miners dominate the Sequel

ESCANABA – When last these two teams met, Escanaba gave Negaunee quite the scare. Brandon Robinette poured on a career-high 34 points and the Miners barely escaped in a three-point victory.

Their response Thursday night spoke volumes.

In a game that was never close, Negaunee (5-1) dominated with hot shooting and outstanding defense in a surprising 67-47 victory that left the Eskymos (4-2) stunned.

“I have to give all the credit to Negaunee, they’re a really good team and we just got off to a really poor start,” said Eskymos head coach Tracy Hudson. “We dug ourselves a hole and didn’t answer the bell early and we’re disappointed. We’ve been playing so well. I just told the kids to put this one behind us.”

It became apparent pretty quickly that this would not be the Eskymos night. Negaunee guards Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori forced turnovers in the first quarter and shut down the Esky offense from the start. Halfway through the quarter, the Eskymos were down 12-2 after back-to-back triples from Jandron and Lori. Another three from Lori pushed the lead to 19-6. Then with 1.1 seconds remaining in the frame, Lori received an inbounds pass wide open on the right side of the rim that he swooshed as the buzzer sounded, and the Miners carried a 21-8 lead into the second.

The hot shooting then continued as the Miners hit three more triples and carried a 20 point lead into the half.

“Everything looks better when the shots are going in, and that’s what happened,” said Miners coach Mike O’Donnell. “We shot the ball extremely well on the road, in a tough environment.”

But the big difference in the game may have been the job the MIners did on Robinette. The Eskymos’ big man was held to 10 total points, four in the first half, with Eric Lori plus help hounding him all game.

“In practice, our whole focus was guarding Brandon,” said Lori who scored a game-high 21 points. “He’s a great player and we had five players all around him, just waiting for him to make his move. That was what we were trying to do.”

O’Donnell said he put the 5-10 Lori on the 6-5 center as a change of pace.

“He had 34 against us the first game and we tried going with a big on him last time and he really exploited that with his quickness and slashing ability to get to the rim,” he said. “So we went small and tried to get help on defense, and Eric did a really good job positioning himself, got him out of his comfort zones and did a good job of crowding him. We wanted to make sure he didn’t go off. We wanted to keep him under 15 and we accomplished that goal.”

Even with a 20 point advantage, the Miners kept the pressure on out of the break, beginning the third quarter on a 7-1 run and expanding their lead even further.

“We said at halftime that the first four minutes were crucial,” said O’Donnell. “That 20 point spread would either get down to 11-12 points and Escanaba would be back in the game, or we could push the lead up and essentially make them play from behind, and we accomplished that.”

Nearly lost in the one-sided affair were a couple bright spots for the Eskymos. Sam Molnar had a season-high 17 points and played an intense game from start to finish, also doing a number on Jandron defensively, helping hold the Miners’ senior guard to 12 points. Jandron also had seven assists and five rebounds. Jay Lori added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Hudson said he hopes his team can learn from the defeat and move on.

“They took it to us tonight and the lesson learned for us is, we have to come out and execute in those first three minutes,” Hudson said. “In the danger time when you’re down 14-16 points, you have to answer. The game got away from us, and they’re a good team and they didn’t let us have it back.”

The Miners shot 28-of-53 from the field and were 6-of-13 from three-point range. Negaunee also won the jayvee game 51-38.

Escanaba hosts Menominee, Monday.