Seniors go out with bang for Gladstone

Esky swept, but rematch looms in Class B district next week

Mike Mattson | Daily Press Gladstone’s Ben Schwalbach (42) drives along the baseline as Escanaba’s Gavin Peacock applies pressure Monday at Gladstone High School.

GLADSTONE — All Joe Gibbs wanted was a victory on Senior Night at Gladstone High School.

It was his last home game for the Braves, who defeated bayshore rival Escanaba 81-60 before a packed crowd of 1,000 fans.

“It’s awesome,” Gibbs said after the Braves completed a regular-season sweep of the Eskymos. “We wanted to go out with a bang. It was big. We made a statement beating them by a large margin.”

The Braves won’t celebrate too long because they face the Eskymos again in the Class B district semifinals March 8 at Escanaba.

Gladstone (14-5) finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Great Northern Conference with Esky (12-8) and Menominee. All three teams ended with 4-4 league records behind conference champion Marquette.

Gladstone rolled past Esky with the help of 11 3-pointers, Reece Castor’s 25 points and a 30-15 rebounding advantage.

The Braves broke open a 38-33 halftime lead with a big second half that included key defensive adjustments.

“We talked at halftime about switching on the screens and getting help for the helper,” Gladstone coach Clayton Castor said. “I thought we did a better job in the second half of containing them on the pick and roll.

“I thought all five seniors played well,” Castor added. “They are wonderful kids and we love them all. We are fortunate to have had them in our program.”

Seniors Casey Wolf, Ben Schwalbach, Jack Stephenson, Hunter Botruff and Gibbs were honored before the game.

Gibbs produced 10 points and seven rebounds to lead the seniors.

Reece Castor, a sophomore point guard, made 8-of-12 shots and collected five rebounds and three assists to lead the Braves. Rudy Peterson scored 15 points and Brad Spindler added 14 points for Gladstone.

Esky received a big night from its dynamic duo — senior Tyler Willette (26 points, 4 rebounds) and junior point guard Ryan Robinette (18 points).

The Eskymos just couldn’t slow down a Gladstone team that hit 27-of-49 shots (55 percent), including 11-of-20 behind the arch.

“I thought their 3-point shooting was a big weapon for them,” Esky coach Tracy Hudson said. “They are a hard team for us to match up with man-to-man with (Reece Castor) and Spindler.

“Midway through the third quarter they started to pull away and we couldn’t answer. They played a solid game and they shot really well. We have to find a way to slow them down.”

Both teams played an intense first quarter, with Gladstone owning a 16-14 lead. The Braves increased the margin to 33-20 in the second quarter, but Esky went on a key late 13-5 run to trail by five points at the half. Robinette sparked the comeback as he drilled three four 3-pointers, three of them from way behind the arch.

“Give Robinette credit, he got away from us and knocked down some tough shots,” coach Castor said.

Gladstone gradually pulled away in the second half, which included a vicious two-hand dunk from Gibbs with a technical foul for hanging on the rim.

“The biggest problem we faced was slowing them down on offense,” Hudson said. “Their big guns scored and their role players stepped up. We didn’t play bad. I was happy with my kids in a lot of ways. I thought Tyler Willette and Ryan Robinette played a solid game.”

Esky, which won the jayvee game 89-53 and lost the freshman game 43-26, is off until next week’s district. Gladstone ends the regular season tonight at Manistique.

Escanaba 14 19 14 13 – 60

Gladstone 16 22 21 22 — 81

Escanaba — Robinette 18, Barron 4, Willette 26, Peacock 4, Butryn 2, Nash 6. FT: 11-19; F: 25, Fouled out: Peacock; 3-point field goals: Robinette (4), Nash.

Gladstone — Gibbs 10, Stephenson 6, Botruff 2, Peterson 15, Spindler 14, Stenson 1, Ness 2, Schwalbach 6, Castor 25. FT: 16-23; F: 14; Fouled out: none; Technicals: Spindler, Gibbs; 3-point field goals: Peterson 4, Spindler, Schwalbach 2, Castor 3, Stephenson.