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Esky’s run ends against Portland

Todd Rose | Daily Press Escanaba’s Keira Maki (52) hits a layup as Portland’s Ava Gruber (0) looks on Monday during an MHSAA Division 2 state quarterfinal at Houghton Lake.

HOUGHTON LAKE — A historic season for the Escanaba Eskymos girls’ basketball team (14-5) came to an end Monday night in a 47-41 defeat against the Portland Raiders (18-2) in an MHSAA state quarterfinal at Houghton Lake.

It was the first time in school history that the girls’ Eskymos basketball team appeared in a state quarterfinal.

“They have nothing to hang their heads about,” said Eskymos coach Mike Beveridge. “They played hard the whole game.”

The big difference-maker in the game was free throws as the Eskymos struggled from the line down the stretch shooting 6-17. The Raiders didn’t do much better, though, going 9-20 from the line. However, Portland made them when they counted the most, the fourth quarter. They were 5-9 in the final 2:39 of the game.

“We’ve been shooting free throws really great,” said Beveridge. We just happened to have an off night, and that hurt us in the game. We lost by six, but we should have won by four or five had we shot our free throw percentage we’d been doing.”

Even in loss, Beveridge was happy with how the team played against Portland — and the whole year.

“The effort and everything was there. I am so proud of them,” he said. “It was just one of those things that we had an off night, but they all played hard.”

The Raiders grabbed the lead early off of two shots — a two and free throw — from Breckyn Werner in the opening minute of play.

Maddie Monkevich tied things up shortly after with a triple, but Ashley Bower answered with a three for the Raiders just 12 seconds later. Nicole Kamin put two more on the board for the Mo’s to keep things close, 6-5.

That seemed to light a fire under the Raiders, though, as they went on a nine-point run to go up 16-5. A 3-point shot from Mari Bink put an end to the Portland run. At the end of the first, Portland led 22-11.

In the second, it was a completely different story as the Escanaba defense put the clamp on the Raiders only allowing 3 points.

“We switched up to be more man-to-man,” said Beveridge about changes made between the first and second. “We got a little more pressure on the ball. We worked hard off the ball, and we made turnovers happen for us. Our man defense did that for us … it was very effected for us.”

While the defense started performing better, Nicole Kamin found herself in foul trouble with three fouls and 18 minutes of basketball still to play. She managed to stay foul-free the rest of the game.

Throughout the game there, appeared to be several non-calls in favor of the Raiders.

“It happens,” said Beveridge. “You play hard and hope to get more calls in your favor than not, and I thought it went the other way a little bit. But the girls, we hung in there, and we played tough basketball. We didn’t play great basketball, but we only lost by six.”

Escanaba kept it close in the second half, closing the gap to as few as two points in the third and three in the fourth.

Beveridge added that the Raiders, “are a very good team,” postgame.

Portland coach Jason Haid returned the compliment.

“It wasn’t easy,” Haid said. “That team is well coached. They play extremely hard, and they don’t give an inch … So, hats off to them for a great game plan. (There are) some tough kids on the other side of the bench there.”

Haid said the win came down to his team’s ability to excel under pressure.

“I thought the difference was when things get tough for our team we’ve got some great leadership,” he said. “Some kids stepped up at the right times and hit some free throws late in the game. I’m proud of our kids for digging deep.”

The Raiders head to Grand Rapids to play Parma Western Wednesday afternoon. Haid said the team is taking it one game at a time and is just happy to be able to play another game.

Ashley Bower anchored Portland’s offense with 22 points. Ava Guilford had 10.

Leading scorer for the Eskymos — against Portland and all-time — Nicole Kamin wrapped up her high school career with 12 points. The Raiders defense made her their main target.

“First off, they’re a really good team,” said Kamin. “I don’t think we were really ready for their defensive end as much … We thought they were going to come out in a 1-3-1, and they ended up playing man the whole game. They played us pretty tight, so that was a little hard, too.

“But as a team, I’d say we came out and tried, but it didn’t go the way we wanted, obviously.”

Kamin was grateful for the chance to make it this far with this group of girls.

“It means so much (to reach the state quarterfinal),” she said. “I never thought the town of Escanaba for girls’ basketball would make it this far. I don’t think most people thought that. We’re kind of known for our softball and runs there. Basketball, no. It’s kind of crazy we made it this far.

“I’m so thankful. Especially with this team, they’re awesome. I’m so thankful for them.”

While Kamin prepares to pack her bags to hit the court next year for Grand Valley State University — and fellow seniors Maysie Lancour and Lilia Hughes graduate — coach Mike Beveridge and his young Eskymos look forward to building on the success of this year.

“You can’t replace Nicole (with) 24 per game and stuff like that,” he said. “But, the attitude and mentality that we’ve developed will carry over. We’ve got young girls up on the team now, and they got a taste of (playing at this level).”

Maddie Monkevich — who Beveridge said played well defensively — and Mari Bink — who had two 3-point baskets — each had 11 points for the Eskymos.

Among the young players getting the call-up was freshman Keira Maki. Defensively, she put heavy pressure on the ball. Offensively, she had four points, including two off a fastbreak.

“So, I’m confident for a bright future for us,” said Beveridge. “We should be good.”

Portland 22 3 11 11 — 47

Escanaba 11 9 10 11 — 41

Portland — Bower 22, Guilford 10, Densmore 6, Werner 6, Ava Gruber 3; F: 17; FT: 9-20; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Bower 3, Guilford 2, Ava Gruber.

Escanaba — Kamin 12, Monkevich 11, Bink 11, Maki 4, Stalberger 3; F: 11; FT: 6-17; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Bink 2, Monkevich.

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