Esky boys top Gladstone
ESCANABA — The Escanaba boys took care of the basketball and their home court here Friday night in a hard-fought 78-67 triumph over the Gladstone Braves.
Esky committed just two turnovers in this Great Northern Conference match-up. The Braves had eight.
“That’s the most impressive stat to me,” said Esky coach Tracy Hudson. “We wanted to share the ball and share the wealth. We feel we have some depth, and right now, we’re playing about eight. We try to get four players in double digits, and we did that tonight.”
Senior forward Carter Hudson led the Eskymos (8-0 overall, 4-0 GNC) with 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Junior forward Jared Hanson collected 14 points and junior forward Colin Hudson and senior forward Bryant Maki had 10 points each.
“I was proud of our guys tonight,” said Braves’ coach Mike Cretens. “We played much better than last night (in Thursday’s 48-44 loss to Kingsford).
“It was a dogfight, and that’s what you expect in an Esky/Gladstone game. Eight turnovers, that’s outstanding. We’ll win a lot of basketball games if we get eight turnovers. We’ve been averaging 18. Two turnovers for them, and we’re still in the game, that’s crazy. I’m real happy with the effort. We had every opportunity to be in the game and maybe win it.”
Gladstone (5-4 overall, 1-4 league) was within 68-63 following a jump shot from the lane by senior Rane Castor with two minutes, 40 seconds left in the contest.
Senior guard Brandon Frazer gave the Eskymos a 70-63 lead on a pair of free throws at 2:28, and Castor split a pair of gifters eight seconds later to bring the Braves within six points.
A layup by junior guard Connor Smale put the Eskymos up 72-63. Carter Hudson followed with a pair of layups, and Frazer sank a pair of free throws for an insurmountable 78-64 advantage with 31.2 seconds left to play.
“I thought they (Gladstone) played a nice game,” said coach Hudson. “We played solid, but we’re capable of playing better. I felt we made some mistakes, and Gladstone played the way they had to. I think we can improve the way we play. We started in a zone (defense) and didn’t move very well in it. A few times we got beat off the dribble.”
Esky led 49-36 following a jumper from top of the key by Smale with 5:55 left in the third.
The Braves responded with a 7-0 run, climbing within 49-43 on two free throws by Ballard at 4:44.
Collin Hudson hit a jumper from the boulevard on a pass from Carter Hudson for a 51-43 cushion midway through the third.
Gladstone was within 53-48 before Esky stretched its lead to 59-51 on Maki’s jumper from the lane with 32 seconds left in the third.
Ballard then drained a set shot for the left corner to bring Gladstone within 59-54 after three.
The Eskymos gained a 64-54 cushion on a 20-foot set shot Hanson early in the fourth. The Braves then stayed basically within seven points prior to Esky’s game-clinching run.
Castor scored a season-high 25 points. Ballard added 24, and Potier had 10.
“Hopefully, this was a break-out for Rane,” said Cretens. “Our 1-2 punch came with it tonight. We fought, and that’s all that matters. In every GNC game, you have to bring it.”
Castor gave Gladstone a 26-20 lead on a fast-break layup midway through the second stanza.
Esky answered with a 9-0 run, taking a 29-26 lead on a 24-foot jumper from the right wing by Smale.
Gladstone was within 31-30 following a pair of gifters by senior forward Dayton Bernson at 1:41.
The Eskymos finished the second frame with an 11-2 run, taking a 42-32 advantage on a putback and free throw by junior forward Trevor Brown .8 second before halftime.
“Getting a 10-point lead at the half was big for them,” said Cretens. “Also, our starting center got in foul trouble, and that didn’t help. We made a few adjustments at halftime, which helped us get back in the game. That (Esky) is a very good team.”
The Eskymos hit 31-of-62 field goals, including 25-of-39 inside the arc. They were 10-of-13 from the line, and the Braves hit 20-of-23.
“We fell in love with the 3-point shot,” said coach Hudson. “We didn’t shoot as well out there as we did last night (in Thursday’s 87-79 win over Menominee). Gladstone has a good team. They beat Menominee down there, and that says something. This is like the Big 10. If you don’t bring it, you’re going to get beat.”
Esky, which also won the jayvee contest 49-47, hosts Manistique Tuesday. Gladstone visits Iron Mountain Monday and Marquette Tuesday.
Gladstone 14 18 22 13 — 67
Escanaba 16 26 12 19 — 78
Gladstone — Polley 3, Ballard 24, Hughes 3, Castor 25, Bernson 2, Potier 10. FT: 20-23; F: 15; Fouled out: Potier; 3-point field goals: Ballard 4, Castor 2, Polley.
Escanaba — Frazer 7, Smale 8, Colin Hudson 10, Carter Hudson 24, Hanson 14, Maki 10, Brown 5. FT: 10-13 F: 17; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Hanson 4, Smale 2.