Monkevich’s shot lifts Esky past Gladstone
GLADSTONE — Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script for Mykenzie Monkevich.
The Escanaba forward — who transferred from Gladstone to Esky for her senior year — returned to her old stomping grounds to haunt the Braves. Monkevich followed up an offensive rebound and made a short shot in the paint with 3 seconds left to lift the Eskymos to a thrilling 49-48 win in the Class B district semifinal.
“I’ve made other game-winning shots, but this was definitely the best,” an emotional Monkevich said in the middle of a post-game celebration. “I wanted to shoot it. I thought I could make it and I did, so I’m pretty excited. This is the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. It’s an incredible feeling. I thought we were going to win it. It’s hard to beat a team three times.”
Esky (11-10) will host the district championship game Friday at 7 p.m. against Sault Ste. Marie, which defeated Menominee 60-33 in its semifinal.
Gladstone (12-10) swept the Eskymos in the regular season 55-49 and 51-40. Esky came out in an effective 2-3 zone defense and plenty of fire to earn a 10-9 lead after one quarter and 27-16 advantage at halftime.
But Gladstone stormed out of the locker room after halftime and opened the third quarter with a sizzling 21-3 run — fueled by six points from Taylor Hunter and 3-point shots from Taylor Zeise and Maddie Ahlgren — for a 37-30 lead late in the third quarter.
“We just needed a little boost of energy,” Gladstone coach Andy Cretens said about his team’s slow start. “I told the girls we beat this team twice and we can do it again. We just needed more energy and obviously they brought it in the second half. They did a fantastic job fighting back. They could have easily given up.”
Gladstone was in control for the next six minutes and increased its lead to 46-38 with 3:02 remaining.
But Esky went to a full-court press and got its transition game going to stay alive. Gladstone still had the edge and 48-42 lead on Megan Crow’s basket with 59.6 seconds left.
Esky promptly received a huge 3-pointer from Nicole Kamin from the top of the key to cut the lead to 48-45 at the :52 mark. And Gladstone turned the ball over two straight times, the second leading to a pair of free throws from Esky’s Lexi Chaillier that trimmed the deficit to 48-47 at the 19.4 mark.
Gladstone’s Ahlgren missed the front end of a one-and-one with 18.5 seconds left, opening the door to Monkevich’s winning basket rebounding a missed shot from Kamin.
Gladstone could not get off a final shot and the Eskymos celebrated their biggest win of the season.
“I am so happy for (Monkevich),” Esky coach Mike Beveridge said. “She has played so hard all year. She didn’t play real well the first two games against Gladstone. I’m so happy she made that winner. It’s her senior year memory she will never ever forget.
“I never lost faith in my girls,” Beveridge added about his team’s late comeback. “We have battled back from bigger deficits all year and made them close games in the end. I knew we were going to be fine. I didn’t like the 21-3 run they had, but I give them credit, they didn’t quit either. It’s one of those games somebody had to lose.”
Kamin, a freshman, came up big for Esky and finished with a game-high 18 points, including three triples, and four rebounds. Chaillier and Monkevich each scored 12 points and Savannah Barron grabbed five rebounds.
It was a roller-coaster ride for the Braves, who appeared to have the sweep against their rivals entering the final minute.
“We made an awesome run,” Cretens said about his team’s third-quarter recovery. “It takes a lot of energy to do that. We were definitely in control. We had it and we definitely gave it away. We made some poor turnovers down the stretch we shouldn’t have made.”
Zeise, a sophomore, led the Braves with 13 points and seven rebounds and Crow, another talented 6-foot-3 center, produced 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Gladstone senior Taylor Hunter scored nine points, but fouled out in the fourth quarter, and senior Kaitlyn Hardwick contributed seven points and three steals.
“It’s hard to beat a good team three times,” Hardwick said. “We just let it go a little.
“We just let the offensive rebound go (at the end). We should have had that. We should have boxed out. Turnovers killed us.”
Gladstone finished with 21 turnovers.
Esky will turn its attention to the Sault, which lost a 38-37 decision to the Eskymos in the season opener.
“They have to come to our house,” Beveridge said. “I know they will want revenge. The coach will use that speech. We are a different team from that first game and I’m sure they are, too. If we put four quarters together, we can beat anybody. I really believe it.”
Escanaba 10 17 6 16 — 49
Gladstone 9 7 21 11 — 48
Escanaba — Kamin 18, Monkevich 12, Chaillier 12, Stannard 5, Griffin 2. FT: 7-16; F: 17; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Kamin 3, Stannard.
Gladstone — Balenger 4, Ahlgren 5, Zeise 13, Hardwick 7, Hunter 9, Crow 10. FT: 6-14; F: 18; Fouled out: Hunter. 3-point field goals: Ahlgren, Zeise.