Gladstone gets revenge
ESCANABA — The Gladstone girls basketball team has come a long ways since starting the season 0-6. Monday night, the Braves took another step in showing that against arch-rival Escanaba.
Sophomore Alaina Trudeau hit two three-pointers in the final three minutes, and the Braves held off a late Esky charge to hang on for a 53-52 win here in a Great Northern Conference match-up.
Esky’s junior guard Taylor Ray tied the score at 45 on a three-point play with 3:18 left in the game. On the ensuing Braves’ possession, Trudeau tripled from the left wing at the three-minute mark to put the Braves up by three.
After another lay-up by Ray, Trudeau tripled again from the top of the key to push the Braves’ lead to 51-47 with 1:24 left.
“Our team spreads the ball really well,” Trudeau said. “That helps us to get good shots.”
Trailing 51-48 with 42 ticks left, Esky sophomore Nicole Kamin stole a pass at mid court and drove for a layup that cut the deficit to one.
Gladstone sophomore Megan Crow got fouled on the next possession and missed the front end of a one-and-one. But sophomore Marnnea LaFave was there for the rebound and the putback to push the Braves’ lead to 53-50.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games,” Braves’ coach Andy Cretens said. “I think that really helped us a lot. Our experience in these moments is a testament to our tough schedule. Everyone thinks it’s really hard playing in big conferences like the GNC and the M-PC (Mid-Peninsula Conference) but it gets us ready for the playoffs.”
The Eskymos (7-7, 2-4 GNC) responded on the other end with a layup by Kamin to make it 53-52 with just 15 seconds remaining. Esky called a timeout to set up its full court press and the Braves turned it over on the inbounds, setting up one last chance.
Kamin grabbed the loose ball and drove to the center of the lane, putting up a floater over Gladstone’s Andie Balenger that fell short with five ticks left. There was a scramble for the rebound and time ran out.
There appeared to be some contact on Kamin’s last shot, and Esky coach Mike Beveridge believed a foul should’ve been called.
“We had the ball in the hands of our best free throw shooter on the last play,” Beveridge said. “I believe she was fouled. The defender (Balenger) got hurt so there was clearly body contact on the play, and she was shooting.”
It was the fifth win for the Braves (6-8, 3-4 GNC) in their last six games, and they were able to avenge a 38-33 home loss to Esky Dec. 21.
“It feels really good,” Trudeau said. “The atmosphere here makes it fun to play in. I’d say our biggest turning point was over Christmas break. We put up a lot of shots over the break to practice shooting.”
Cretens said his players thrive in the big moments.
“Our players love big moments,” he said. “They thrive and enjoy these moments. It’s a testament to how much work we’ve put in. We knew what we had beyond Megan early on, but we knew it was going to take a little time because we have a lot of younger players. They’re starting to understand how to score.”
Despite the loss, the Eskymos got a huge night from Ray, who finished with a career-high 26 points and hit five treys. She also had six rebounds.
“We knew she had the potential,” Beveridge said. “She works hard on her shooting during the off-season. We were calling plays for her to get her the ball.”
Esky led 18-11 with 6:50 left in the second quarter after a triple by Kamin, but the Braves finished the half on a 12-4 run to take a 23-22 lead into the break.
“We passed and cut well in the first quarter,” Beveridge said. “In the second we got a little stagnant. They got better shots than we did because we kind of got away from our scheme.
“I have no regrets on how we played. I’m very proud of the effort. It was a good game by both teams. Nobody quit, but someone’s got to lose. It was a game of runs and they got the last one — give them credit.”
Crow finished with 19 points for the Braves. Trudeau tied a season-high with 15, while Maddie Ahlgren had 12. Trudeau and Ahlgren both hit four triples.
Kamin added 17 points and 12 rebounds for Esky, which won the jayvee game 48-25. Senior guard Lexi Chaillier, the second-leading scorer on the team, finished with just four points but had five assists and eight rebounds.
The Braves visit Gwinn Thursday, while Esky visits Ishpeming Thursday.
Before the game, Esky honored Abbie Silverstone, a young Eskymo who overcame cancer. The girls basketball team raised over $1,400 and presented it and other gifts to her.
Gladstone 8 15 12 18 — 53
Escanaba 15 7 11 19 — 52
Gladstone — Crow 19, Trudeau 15, Ahlgren 12, LaFave 4, Balenger 2, Zeise 1. F: 16; FT: 5-11; Fouled out: None. 3-point field goals: Trudeau 4, Ahlgren 4.
Escanaba — Ray 26, Kamin 17, Weber 5, Chaillier 4. F: 14; FT: 11-17; Fouled out: None. 3-point field goals: Ray 5.