Esky throttles Braves

Dennis Grall | Daily Press With official Charlie Morrison, Zach Rose (34) and the Eskymo mascot watching, Austin Willette, right of Escanaba battles for a loose ball with Carson Shea of Gladstone Friday at Escanaba. Esky posted a 75-63 victory.

ESCANABA — Size and strength was the difference for the Escanaba boys’ basketball team in its latest rivalry matchup with Gladstone. The Braves battled tough but it was the Eskymos coming out on top 75-63 in a Great Northern Conference match-up here Friday.

With big man Jared Nash in foul trouble, the Eskymos’ depth was on display in the second quarter as Zachary Rose and Garrett LaMarche both came off the bench to knock down big three-pointers. The Eskymos (3-1) erupted for 21 points in the period to take a 33-24 lead into halftime.

“Zachary and Garrett were huge for us in the first half,” Esky coach Tracy Hudson said. “Our bench was really the difference there. Some of our starters were struggling or in foul trouble so those guys came in and provided us a spark. That should give them confidence going forward.”

LaMarche and Gladstone’s Reece Castor traded three-pointers right before the half. LaMarche connected from the right corner to give the Eskymos a brief 12-point lead, but then Castor hit from way beyond the arc on the left wing with four seconds left.

“I told my team coming in, they (Braves) might have the best player in the U.P. (Castor), but we want to be the best team,” Hudson said. “I thought we played well, but we can get better.”

The Braves (2-4) fought back to start the second half, coming out of the locker room on a 9-2 run to force the Eskymos into a timeout.

Out of the timeout, Rose hit a three and then the Eskymos went back down low to Austin Willette for buckets on its next two possessions. Hudson said the Eskymos like to get out and run, but need to feature their big guys.

“We want to push the ball and run,” he said. “But at the same time we don’t want to fall into that trap of playing a perimeter game. I thought Craig Kamin did a great job of pushing the ball and getting it into our big guys.”

The Eskymos went on a 9-2 run of their own to build their lead back up to nine, and entered the fourth quarter up 48-41.

“They’re (Eskymos) a lot to handle,” Braves’ coach Dane Quigley said. “They’re big, but they’re also talented. We tried to duplicate going up against their size in practice but that’s really hard to do. Their size was a big factor, and their 1-3-1 defense gave us some problems.”

Gladstone continued to fight in the fourth quarter, as it pulled within three on a three-pointer by Jared Crow that made it 52-49 with 5:10 to play. But every time the Braves made a run, Esky had an answer.

On the ensuing possession, Nash scored and drew a foul — then made the free throw to complete the three-point play. Kamin came up big in the closing minutes, scoring around the basket and hitting at the free throw line to push the lead back up to a dozen.

Nash would foul out with 2:29 left and then Gladstone’s Rane Castor pulled the Braves back within 67-60 on a lay-up with 1:47 to play. Reece Castor had an opportunity to trim the lead to five, but missed a couple of free throws with 1:18 left.

Kamin and Tyler McDonald finished off the Braves by breaking their full-court man defense and hitting their free throws.

“I thought Craig and Tyler really stepped up and were leaders at the end,” Hudson said.

It was the third loss in a row for the Braves, who fell to Manistique last Friday and Marquette Tuesday.

“We had a lot of frustrations at practice this week,” Quigley said. “In my mind, we have played one of the toughest stretches for any team to start its season. We’ve played three of the top four teams in the U.P. before Christmas.

“Our goal is to get better and be playing our best basketball at district time. Last year we took one on the chin from these guys (Eskymos) and then we bounced back and beat them the next time — anything can happen. Hopefully we can use these experiences to build our character.”

Reece Castor led the Braves, who trailed 12-11 after the first quarter, with 31 points. Rane Castor added 12 and Crow chipped in with 11.

Hudson was happy with how his team defended.

“I thought we really affected a lot of their shots,” Hudson said. “We did a good job of keeping Reece away from the basket. Even when we weren’t blocking shots, we were making it difficult for them.

“They hit us hard a couple of times. They did a great job mixing up their defenses but we were able to adjust.”

Kamin led the Eskymos with 17 points and Nash chipped in with 13. Hudson scored 10 and grabbed seven rebounds. Willette also chipped in with 10, while McDonald had seven assists.

As a team, the Eskymos out-rebounded the Braves 31-22. They also won the turnover battle, committing only five while the Braves had 15.

The Eskymos completed the sweep, as their jayvees won 72-43 and the freshmen won 54-47.

Gladstone visits Iron Mountain Tuesday, while the Eskymos are at Marquette.

Gladstone 11 13 17 22 — 63

Escanaba 12 21 15 27 — 75

Gladstone — Reece Castor 31, Rane Castor 12, Crow 11, Shea 6, Downey 3. F: 16; FT: 9-18; Fouled out: None. 3-point field goals: Reece Castor 4, Rane Castor, Crow.

Escanaba — Kamin 17, Nash 13, Willette 10, Hudson 10, Rose 7, McDonald 6, Willis 6, LaMarche 6. F: 19; FT: 15-18; Fouled out: Nash. 3-point field goals: LaMarche 2, Rose 2, Nash 2.