ESCANABA The Calumet Copper Kings gave the Escanaba Eskymos a run for their money Saturday, and the Eskymos found themselves in early foul trouble. But a strong performance from their bench in the second half boosted Escanaba to a 60-43 victory.
"I thought it was an unbelievable effort by our kids, I couldn't ask any more from them," said Eskymos coach Tracy Hudson. "Brandon Robinette got three quick fouls in the first half, and everybody kind of stepped it up. We were down one at the half, but we felt like we kind of weathered the storm. We came out and just executed, and I thought Danny LaPalm had one of his best games ever."
Robinette was called for two of his three fouls early in the first quarter, and Hudson went to LaPalm to get some interior penetration on the offensive end and solidify the defensive end. Neither team really got into much of a flow on offense during the first half, but Calumet's Paul Torola had a bit of a hot hand, knocking down a couple of triples to help lead his team to a 23-22 halftime advantage.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Escanaba’s Ben Kleiman puts up a shot as Calumet’s Nathan Perreault (42) and Paul Torola (22) defend during the second quarter of their game Saturday, in Escanaba. The Eskymos won, 60-43.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Escanaba’s Brandon Robinette puts up a shot as Calumet’s Daniel Olson defends during their game Saturday, in Escanaba. Robinette finished with 15 points, and the Eskymos won 60-43.
"Ben (Kleiman) had to step up on that Torola kid, he's a nice player," said Hudson. "(Calumet was) a lot more physical than I was expecting, they were a very athletic team that gave us some fits early. They mixed their defenses really well."
The Eskymos (3-4) exploded on offense in the second half, scoring 38 points while holding the Copper Kings to just 20. They opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run that featured triples from Kleiman and Robinette, and five quick points from LaPalm that included an old-fashioned three point play.
"In the second half, our kids won the boards and hustle plays, and I thought we were the more aggressive team," Hudson added. "We shared the ball, and our bench really came through for us today."
Calumet 12 11 10 10 43
Escanaba 11 11 21 17 60
Calumet: Kariniemi 10, Olson 5, Torola 13, Sturos 6, Pieti 9; FT: 5-8; F: 8; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Kariniemi, Olson, Torola 2
Escanaba: Macon 2, Kleiman 16, Molnar 4, Olgren 2, Robinette 15, LaPalm 17 Falish 2, Fournier 2; FT: 5-7; F: 14; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Kleiman 4, Robinette
As the last 30 seconds ticked away in the third, Calumet (3-2) held onto the ball for one final shot. That shot ended up being denied by Kleiman, who put up a half court buzzer beater that nearly fell.
Despite some great play from the Eskymos, the Copper Kings were able to hang around, and they were only down by 10 points with six minutes remaining in the game. But the offensive success continued for Escanaba, and Calumet appeared to be tired by the closing minutes.
"We got worn down in the second half," said Calumet coach Mike Ojala. "Dribble penetration from their guards was an issue for us all day, and I think that really showed in the second half. Their ball screens and their two-man game with Robinette and LaPalm really hurt us. Those two kids really did a nice job."
He added that the depth of Escanaba's bench was what helped to push them ahead of the Copper Kings once Robinette was in foul trouble.
"That big kid (LaPalm) had a nice, soft touch," he said. "He hurt us all night, and gave them good minutes off the bench."
LaPalm had a double-double, pulling down 11 rebounds and scoring a season high 17 points. Kleiman hit four triples on the day, and tied his season high of 16.
Escanaba's jayvees also won their game, 62-26. The Eskymos resume Jan. 3 at Negaunee.