ESCANABA - The pace of a non-conference boys' basketball game Saturday afternoon wasn't for the faint of heart, as the third-ranked Escanaba Eskymos raced to a 60-49 triumph over the Sault Ste. Marie Blue Devils.
Esky, going deep into its bench, led 35-28 at halftime and 48-35 after the third quarter.
"I think our bench helped us," said Esky coach Tracy Hudson. "We played about 10 kids, which is nice. Pressure (defense) and uptempo is what our team is all about, and we kept the pressure on them the whole game. The biggest thing is we got off to a good start."
Jon Young | Daily Press
Brandon Robinette (24) of Escanaba soars up for a dunk as Sault Ste Marie’s Terrance Fuller (52) looks on during the first quarter of Escanaba’s 60-49 win on Saturday.
Jon Young | Daily Press
Escanaba’s Samuel Molnar (14) drives past Michael James (1) of Sault Ste Marie during the first half of Saturday’s game at Escanaba.
The Eskymos (5-2) took a 16-15 lead on a jump shot from the right corner by senior Ben Kleiman with 40 seconds left in the first stanza.
Esky then scored the first five points of the second, gaining a 21-15 cushion on a 12-foot jumper and free throw by junior guard Sam Molnar.
The Blue Devils (1-5) were still within 30-28 with 90 seconds remaining in the second frame.
Sault Ste. Marie 15 13 10 14 - 49
Escanaba 16 19 13 12 - 60
Sault Ste. Marie - James 4, Anderson 19, Houghton 2, Krupa 4, M. Eilola 8, Fuller 12. FT: 9-14; F: 14; Fouled out: None.
Escanaba - Hardwick 2, Kleiman 5, Molnar 11, Rodman 4, Ogren 8, Robinette 22, Skufca 8. FT: 11-12; F: 16; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Robinette 2, Skufca 2, Kleiman.
Esky junior Tyler Scufka then drained a 21-foot jumper from the left wing for a 33-28 advantage 78 seconds left before halftime and junior forward Jacob Rodman hiked the count to 35-28 on a layup, set up on a pass from Molnar 7.9 seconds before the intermssion.
The Eskymos continued to pull away in the third quarter, gaining a 48-33 advantage with 29 seconds left in the period when 6-foot-5 senior center Brandon Robinette sneaked through the backdoor for a layup.
Sault then scored the final two points in the third and scored the first eight points of the fourth, climbing within 48-43 on a jumper from the lane by senior guard Ray'nell Anderson with 4:26 remaining.
The teams then traded baskets with Anderson sinking another jumper from the boulevard, enabling the Blue Devils to stay within five points (50-45) with 3:47 left to play.
Esky, however, didn't allow Sault to get any closer.
"We just couldn't hit the big shots, which has been our Achilles heel all season," said Sault coach Bill Schomberg. "Although, we have a great group of kids who work hard. Our defensive intensity was better in the second half. Only, we need to do that for four quarters."
Robinette, who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, excited the hometown crowd with a slam dunk on a fast break which gave the Eskymos a 13-12 lead late in the opening frame.
"Brandon's dunk really got the crowd into the game," said Hudson. "I thought we played with a lot of energy. Defensively, we did a pretty good job. I think Sault has a good team. Their guards were very physical. This is a very quality win."
Schomberg also came away impressed with Robinette's effort.
"He's a tough match-up," said the Blue Devils' skipper. "He can go outside or inside. He did a great job for them today."
Molnar added 11 points for Esky, which sank 22-of-53 field goals and 11-of-12 free throws and committed 25 turnovers.
"Sam did a good job for us today," said Hudson. "Only, we need to cut down on turnovers. We also need to protect the paint more and do a better job on the boards."
Anderson paced the Blue Devils with a season-high 19 points and Terrance Fuller, a 6-5 junior forward, had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"Anderson broke us up and got some layups," said Hudson. "He handles the ball real well. It's tough to keep track of him."
The Blue Devils finished 20-of-63 from the floor and 9-of-14 from the line and had 20 miscues.
"We're both pressing teams," said Schomberg. "We do well in the open court. When both teams are looking to get into transition, the number of turnovers tends to be a little high. We were a 75-percent free throw shooting team until yesterday (in Friday's 74-61 loss at Rudyard). We have to do a better job getting to the line."
Esky, which dropped a 55-50 overtime thriller in the jayvee game, hosts Menominee tonight. Sault hosts Alpena tonight.