Eskymos cool down, fight off physical Emeralds

ESCANABA – Their shooting may have cooled off a little in 24 hours, but the fifth-ranked Escanaba boys were still able to generate enough offensive firepower Wednesday night to gain a 65-39 basketball triumph over the Manistique Emeralds.

Esky, which sank 54 percent of its field goals in a 75-60 victory at Gwinn Tuesday night, hit 24-of-71 shots (34 percent) shots against Manistique.

“We didn’t shoot the greatest tonight, especially from 3-point range,” said Esky coach Tracy Hudson. “It was a physical game up at Gwinn and we didn’t come out with the same energy as we did last night. Although, that’s not to take anything away from Manistique. Their kids played hard and did a pretty good job.”

Esky (13-4) grabbed a 12-2 lead on a 20-foot jump shot by 6-foot-5 senior center Brandon Robinette slightly more than three minutes into the non-conference outing.

The Eskymos then put in their second unit and the Emeralds scored 12 unanswered points, taking a 14-12 lead on a 21-foot jumper by senior guard Tyler Kangas late in the period.

“I thought we got off to a great start, then we kind of bogged down,” said Hudson. “I think our pressure and transition was probably the difference tonight.”

Junior guard Sam Molnar tied the score at 14 on a buzzer-beating jumper from the lane in the opening frame.

Robinette then put the Eskymos ahead to stay on a running jumper from the boulevard early in the second stanza.

Also in the second frame, Esky didn’t commit any turnovers and Manistique had nine, which factored in the Eskymos gaining a 33-20 halftime cushion.

The Emeralds (1-15) trailed just 18-17 early in the second when Kangas drained a 21-foot set shot from the right wing.

Esky responded with 12 unanswered points, taking a 30-17 advantage on a pair of free throws by Malnor with 2:23 left in the period.

“They pressed us and we didn’t handle it very well,” said Emeralds’ coach Todd Kangas. “We had a few inexperienced kids in there, but we still should have done a better job. Yet, there were spots when we really played well. I thought we did a decent job when we put pressure on them.”

Esky faced some adversity late in the third quarter when senior guard Tyler Hardwick fouled out and Malnor was forced out of the contest with an arm injury.

The Eskymos were able to overcome that, however, as they continued to pull away from the Emeralds.

Robinette finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Senior guard Jamie Hiltunen added 17 points.

Esky, which finished with 10 turnovers, hosts Gladstone Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“I thought Brandon and Jamie had solid games,” said Hudson. “Chris Rose stepped up and got seven points for us in the fourth quarter, and I was impressed with (Tyler) Kangas. I thought we did a pretty good job taking care of the ball. This game was big for us. We wanted build some momentum going into the Gladstone game. One thing is we’ve got to rebound better on Friday.”

Kangas finished with 20 points for Manistique, which sank 15-of-48 field goals and had 24 miscues. Senior forward Coby Ryan added seven points and 10 boards. The Emeralds host second-ranked Munising Friday, before continuing their tour of Delta County by visiting Gladstone, Tuesday.

“Tyler had a nice game,” said coach Kangas. “He shot the ball well and Coby Ryan did all right. Only, we need 2-3 more guys to contribute to compete with a team like Esky.”

Esky also won the jayvee game (61-26) and freshman contest (67-40).