Eskymos catch fire in total team effort

ESCANABA – Escanaba caught fire Tuesday in a total team effort that saw 12 different players score and 12 3-pointers fall in a 85-48 rout of West Iron County.

“It was just a great overall win for us,” said Esky head coach Tracy Hudson. “We got in the tempo that we wanted, we got a lot of pressure, we mixed our defenses and that’s kind of who we are.”

The Wykons (3-13) tied the score at 14-14 on a buzzer beater from Ryan Rogers to close out the first quarter. Esky (11-4) then opened the second quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers from Sam Molnar and Ben Kleiman. On the Eskymos next possession, Molnar hit Kleiman with a no look pass for a lay-up, before finding Jamie Hiltunen for a corner 3-pointer that gave Esky a 25-14 lead.

Hudson noted that his back-court duo of Molnar and Hiltunen, who combined for 10 assists and two turnovers, controlled the pace of the game.

“I thought Sam Molnar and Jamie Hiltunen were real steady up top, they made good decisions,” Hudson said. “He (Molnar) kind of ignited us, it may not have showed up in the points but he had six assists and Hiltunen had four assists and zero turnovers. Our guards really did a good job of controlling the ball.”

The Wykons played a diamond-and-one defense in hopes of slowing down Esky’s Brandon Robinette. Their focus on Robinette gave the Eskymos shooters plenty of open looks from outside and they made West Iron County pay by draining 12-of-25 from deep.

“You’ve got to give something to get something and in the diamond-and-one you give up the corner three and they made the corner threes so we had to get out of it and try to go man and be a little more aggressive and we weren’t aggressive,” said WIC head coach Dan Schive.

Escanaba connected on five first half 3-pointers as they took a 35-23 lead into the break. Hudson went deep into his bench early, with Jordan Ogren, Tyler Hardwick, Tyler Skufca and Chris Rose all seeing heavy first half minutes. The Wykons on the other hand were without backup point guard Brandon Olson.

“We are tied at the end of the first quarter, we give up a run and then it just snowballs on us,” Schive said “We’ve just got to figure out a way, or I’ve got to figure out a way to not give up that run. It just happens too much and we’ve got to play with much more passion on the defensive end.”

The Eskymos second quarter run carried over to the third quarter as turned up their defensive pressure and connected on three more from distance to build a 59-38 lead.

“When you’re on the road and stuff snowballs, the crowd gets into it and everyone is going to make a shot,” Schive said.

Esky’s pressure caused 15 Wykon turnovers as their half-court trap gave WIC’s offense trouble. Thirteen different players saw the court for Escanaba and Hudson noted his team’s pressure and depth changed the game.

“We mixed our defense, we just tried to come with the pressure in the second, third and fourth quarter,” Hudson said. “We played a lot of kids and I felt like just our depth kind of wore on them and our pressure and that’s kind of how we want to play.”

Both teams pulled their starters a few minutes into the fourth quarter. Escanaba got a big boost off the bench from Chad Leisenring, who started the season as a manager. The junior netted six fourth quarter points, including a 3-pointer.

“We didn’t give him the game ball, he took it before we could give it to him,” a pleased Hudson noted. “We’re really happy for him. He was our manager but he is a full fledged member of the team and he just works so hard in practice; he earned it.”

Escanaba won the battle of the boards 35-25. They shot 32-of-50 from the field and held the Wykons to 19-of-55 shooting. Escanaba junior Jacob Rodman left with a knee injury in the third quarter. His status for Friday’s game at Houghton is unknown.

The Eskymos won the jayvee contest 72-40.