Class B regional semifinal: Time runs out on Eskymos in Petoskey

PETOSKEY – It was all about timing.

The Cadillac High School boys’ basketball team held on in just the nick of time, while the Escanaba Eskymos simply ran out of time in the end in Monday’s Class B regional semifinal at the Petoskey High School gym.

The Vikings, 17-6 overall, built an 11-point fourth quarter advantage and then had to hold off a late Escanaba rally as they topped the Eskymos, 55-52, to advance to a 7 p.m. Wednesday, Class B regional final against Mason County Central.

Mason County Central, 19-4, advanced to the regional final with a 59-46 victory over Newaygo, 17-6, in Monday’s other semifinal.

In the opening game, Cadillac senior Jalen Brooks – who this fall will join the Ferris State University football team – finished with a game-high 26 points, 12 rebounds and added three assists to pace the Vikings, who were able to overcome Escanaba’s increasing full-court press and zone defensive looks as the game progressed.

It didn’t come easy for the Vikings, as the Eskymos whittled Cadillac’s fourth-quarter lead from a one-time 11 point advantage to just two with 6.4 seconds to play.

“We always make it interesting,” Cadillac coach Jeff McDonald said. “We missed enough free throws in the end and some layups and things we should’ve made.

“There was a stretch where they (Escanaba) got us to play a little faster and got us to turn the ball over, but overall we’re really happy to be moving on.”

Cadillac was happy to escape a fourth quarter in which Escanaba simply wouldn’t go away.

Escanaba senior center Brandon Robinette – who last week was named the All-Great Northern Conference offensive most valuable player – ignited an Eskymo fourth quarter rally with a 3-pointer to cut Cadillac’s advantage to five, 47-42, with just over three minutes to play.

Following a Brooks offensive putback and free throw to complete a 3-point play, Robinette calmly drained a 15 footer to make it 50-44 with one minute, 24 seconds to play.

Escanaba’s Sam Molnar – who finished with a team-high 20 points, five assists and was elusive throughout the game – then had back-to-back driving layups as the Viking lead was trimmed to 53-49 with just 13.8 seconds to play.

Following a Cadillac free throw from Evan Ferritto which made it 54-49, Escanaba again responded as Tyler Skufca knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner to make it a two-point game, 54-52, with just over six seconds to go.

With the clock ticking away, Cadillac nearly was called for a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds play, but called a timeout with just .4 seconds left on the clock.

Following a timeout, Cadillac’s Andrew Emington immediately drew a foul before any time came off the clock and connected on one of two free throws.

Escanaba’s full court pass on the ensuring inbounds play sailed out of bounds, giving Cadillac another possession and the win.

“I thought we defended well,” McDonald said. “Molnar was a heck of a player. We defended him well, but he just kept making shots and Robinette, he’s a great player but I thought Jalen (Brooks) did a great job on him.”

Brooks was nearly unstoppable in the first half, as the athletic 6-foot-4 forward scored 20 of his 26 points in the half, including a high rising tip-in off a miss, followed by a spinning move to the hole which put his team up 28-17.

Brooks also shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the first half to go along with his seven field goals, the majority of which were from within the paint.

“We needed him,” McDonald said of Brooks. “This is his fourth regional, he’s been here before and you can’t play badly and expect to move on.”

The Vikings led 15-9 after the opening quarter and pushed their advantage to 28-17 at halftime.

“In the first half, we just could not get our shots,” Escanaba coach Tracy Hudson said. “We had a lot of layups that wouldn’t fall. We were getting the shots we wanted, but Brooks was really hot in the first half and we didn’t have an answer for him.”

The Eskymos switched more to a zone in the second half and limited Brooks to six points, while the steady play of Molnar – who had 15 of his 20 points in the second half – and Robinette kept the Eskymos in it.

“Our pressure started to wear on them a little bit and we were attacking at the end, but I felt we just ran out of time,” Hudson said. “I felt if we had about two or three more minutes, we could’ve caught them.

“Sam Molnar was getting to the basket and was really attacking,” Hudson added. “We were really spreading it out for him and running 14 low and Brandon (Robinette) started heating up in the second half. He (Robinette) was just 1-of-8 from the floor in the first half, but we told our kids at halftime to collect ourselves and slow down.

“We were getting the same type of shots they were, but they (Cadillac) were making them.”

Also for the Vikings, which shot 18-of-48 (37.5 percent) from the floor including a 1-of-11 clip from 3-point range and were 18-of-32 from the line, Justin Liptak had eight points and eight rebounds, while Lewis Finch added seven points and eight rebounds.

Cadillac was just 8-of-18 from the line in the second half.

“We played just well enough to move on, which is great,” McDonald said. “Escanaba’s coaches said their kids had been building for this and they were looking forward to the experience, and I think our kids just wanted to win first.”

Also for Escanaba, which closes a 17-6 season, Robinette finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while senior Ben Kleiman added eight rebounds and Jamie Hiltumen had six points.

The Eskymos shot 21-of-54 (38.9 percent) from the floor and were 7-of-23 from 3-point range, had eight turnovers and shot 5-of-11 from the stripe.

“I felt like we deserved to be here,” Hudson said. “I wish we could’ve hit a few more close shots. Cadillac was finishing in the first half and we didn’t in the paint and I think a lot of that had to do with how physical they were on defense.

“I thought Cadillac played a great game and held on at the end.”

The Eskymos will graduate six seniors this year including Hiltunen,Kleiman, Robinette, Jordan Ogren, Lucas Rochemont nad Bailey Lamb.

“We went from five wins, to eight wins last year to 17 wins this year,” Hudson said. “Four of my five starters have been with me now for three years and I felt we had just as good as chance as anybody, but you can’t have an off shooting night and that’s what happened.

“I felt our team had great character and they’ve given me their best,” Hudson added. “They’ve been a joy to coach, probably my most enjoyable season and I’ve seen them grow. We’re proud, the community is proud of them and we’ve had great fan support.

“It just wasn’t out night.”