Esky crunches Miners

Nash, Kamin record key plays for Eskymos

Dennis Grall | Daily Press Jason Waterman, rear, of Escanaba battles Carter Hudson (24) and Ben Willis, front, of Escanaba for a first quarter rebound Tuesday at Escanaba. Also in the play for Negaunee are Drew DuShane (22) and Tyler Hintsala (34).

ESCANABA — There is nothing like getting the job done at crunch time.

Just ask the Escanaba Eskymos, who controlled the final four-and-a-half minutes here Tuesday night to shock Negaunee 61-57 in a non-conference boys basketball game. The Eskymos used a 17-5 burst in those closing minutes to grab their season-opening victory.

“That was a good finish,” Escanaba coach Tracy Hudson said in a massive understatement. “We found a way to make plays.”

Jordan Nash had several big plays in that stretch, topped by a steal and layup with six seconds to play that secured the comeback victory. He also hit a triple from atop the key to bring Esky within 52-51 with 3:10 left, then managed to retrieve a bad pass in the lane and convert the go-ahead basket for a 53-52 lead with 2:30 left.

Nash, who had nine of his 16 points in the final four minutes, stole the ball from Jason Waterman at the end, depriving the Miners of a chance to either tie or win the game in the closing moments.

“I told them to crawl into them as tight as they could and don’t give them a three,” Hudson said of his late defensive instructions that paid off on Nash’s theft. Of the steal, Hudson said Waterman, one of five junior starters for Negaunee, “exposed it (the ball) for just a second and Jared reached in and popped for the layup.”

Esky held a 22-13 margin in the fourth quarter. Negaunee fell to 0-3 after letting a late lead slip away for the second time.

“We lost four games this summer playing exactly the same way,” said frustrated Negaunee coach Dan Waterman.

The Miners led 30-21 at halftime, but Escanaba senior guard Craig Kamin exploded in the third quarter with 10 of his 11 points to insert life into the Eskymos.

“He kind of ignited us and got us going in the third quarter,” said coach Hudson. “He was (U.P.) football player of the year, and he can make plays.”

Drew Lindbergs’s fourth triple of the night sent Negaunee ahead 47-39 to open the final frame and the Miners led 52-44 when the Eskymos started their game-winning rally. Lindberg led all scorers with 18 points.

Coach Waterman was disappointed at how his defense allowed the Eskymos to step up offensively.

“Escanaba drove the ball to the basket seeking contact and we let everybody get to their favorite spot on the floor,” said Waterman. “We’ve got smart kids on the floor. We will get it fixed. It is frustrating for me, it is frustrating for the kids.”

The Miners jumped out early, taking a 13-5 lead before Esky scored the final six points of the opening period to tie the game at 13. Negaunee then closed out the first half on a 9-0 flurry as Jason Waterman hit five of his 13 points.

Hudson said a major difference between the two teams was Negaunee’s perimeter scoring and Escanaba’s rebounding.

The Miners hit 20-of-58 shots but Esky held a 35-20 rebound margin, with Nash claiming 15 boards. Esky canned 24-of-36 field goals but was a feeble 2-of-15 beyond the arc.

“We won the inside game and in the paint,” Hudson said, noting 18 of their final 22 points were inside. “We really hurt them inside. Jared Nash is a really good offensive rebounder.”

Hudson also felt his team’s depth was a factor. “Fatigue caused some of their mistakes,” he said, indicating Escanaba’s huge size advantage was important in wearing down the Miners.

“We got hurt in the third quarter but our subbing helped us in the fourth quarter,” said Hudson. “We made the last push.”

Esky, which hosts Kingsford Friday, won the jayvee game 63-41 and freshman game 57-28.

Negaunee 13 17 14 13 – 57

Escanaba 13 8 18 22 – 61

Negaunee – Waterman 13, Larson 2, Sager 16, Lindberg 18, Hintsala 2. FT: 7-12; F: 21; Fouled out: Larson; 3-point field goals – Lindberg 4, Sager 1, Waterman 1.

Escanaba – Fedell 4, Kamin 11, Willis 2, Hudson 12, McDonald 3, Nash 16, Willette 13. FT: 7-13; F: 22; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals – Kamin 1, Nash 1.