Experience powers Eskymos to victory

ESCANABA – It was a back-and-forth first half but the Escanaba Eskymos flashed their veteran leadership down the stretch as they knocked off Menominee in a 59-45 Great Northern Conference victory at home, Monday.

“We knew coming in here Escanaba is a great team and they’ve been playing together for three years so it was going to be difficult,” said Menominee head coach Pete Pericolosi.

Escanaba’s experience showed in the second half as their full court press started to give the Maroons trouble. On the offensive end, Esky’s back-court trio of Sam Molnar, Tyler Hardwick and Jamie Hiltunen only turned the ball over a combined three times. Defensively the Eskymos used their press to erase a 29-28 half-time deficit. Escanaba head coach Tracy Hudson said he wanted to speed the game up.

“We’re going to give up some baskets but we’re going to get you in our tempo and sooner or later those shots are going to start going long and you’re going to start missing easy lay-ups so that constant stress and pressure worked in our favor more,” said Hudson.

The up-tempo style paid off early in the third quarter as Molnar and Ben Kleiman scored back-to-back baskets off Menominee turnovers, giving Esky a 33-30 lead, their first advantage since the opening bucket of the game. The Eskymos stayed on top for the rest of the night, building a 48-39 lead by the end of the third quarter. Pericolosi said the the second half was a learning experience for the Maroons.

“Our young guys learned under fire tonight,” Pericolosi said. “You can’t just take two dribbles and pick the ball up along the sidelines. We talked about it at halftime but they still did the same thing. We had 21 turnovers at the end of the third quarter so that was huge for us. Our inexperience at the guard – a sophomore and a freshman really showed.”

Menominee scored the first two buckets of the fourth quarter and appeared to be making a run after Devon Harris blocked Molnar’s jumper on Esky’s next possession. Instead, Brandon Robinette snagged the miss, got fouled and scored two of his game high 26 points, putting the Eskymos ahead 50-43. Hudson said Robinette played impressive against a Menominee front-court that featured two players who were 6-foot-5-inches tall.

“He’s done a great job on the boards but they have some imposing kids, they have some physical kids that have been very successful in their high school careers,” Hudson said. “They’re not going to back down from anybody. They bruised him up a little bit but Brandon’s a tough kid, he may look skinny but he can get after it.”

Robinette snagged 14 boards as Escanaba out-rebounded Menominee 29-17. Hudson said controlling the paint was key against the physical Maroons.

“I was really happy with my kids defensively,” Hudson said. “I felt like we won the half-court defense and we won the rebounding and that’s been an area of concern, but I thought our kids brought it on both sides. I felt like our bench was a key to our success.”

Escanaba had 11 steals and 14 deflections on the defensive end. Senior Ben Kleiman came off the bench to add 10 points, including eight in the third quarter, in which the Eskymos outscored the Maroons 20-10.

Escanaba won the jayvee match-up 67-63 and also won the freshman contest 41-35.

The Eskymos improve to 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the GNC. Menominee drops to 2-3 and 0-2 in the GNC. Escanaba is back in action tonight as it travels to Westwood.