With districts beginning next week, the book on Escanaba’s season remains unfinished, but the regular season chapter concluded with a happy ending. The eight Escanaba seniors went out as winners as the Eskymos topped the Calumet Copper Kings 57-40, on Thursday.
“This group has been one of my best groups,” Hudson said about the seniors and his team. “They come to practice and love basketball. There are a lot of teams this time of year that are ready for the season to be over, but these guys love basketball; they could play another month or two.”
Escanaba never trailed and jumped out to an 8-2 lead after senior Chris Rose converted a fast-break layup off of an assist from senior Sam Molnar. Rose led all scorers with 19 points and made 8-of-13 shot attempts.
“I just let my teammates get spacing and I attacked every hole I got,” Rose said. “The guy that was guarding me wasn’t quick enough for me, so I took advantage of that, and I basically got to the hoop whenever I wanted.”
Offensively, the Eskymos had an average night, shooting 41 percent (18-44). But defensively, they were sharp. Escanaba used multiple defenses, including: man-to-man, full-court zone, 1-3-1 zone and a 2-3 zone trapping defense. The different looks kept Calumet out of a rhythm the entire night and the Copper Kings shot 26 percent (14-54). Calumet was never able to cut the lead to single digits after trailing 17-6 in the second quarter.
“They mix up their defenses, and they keep you off-balanced,” Calumet head coach Mike Ojala said. “Changing their defenses and traps force you into quick shots. I thought early on, we got the shots we wanted. We just weren’t finishing.
“The style of play Escanaba brings against you-with their constant changing defenses and pressure-wore on us, and I think our kids had some tired legs in the third quarter and the fourth quarter.”
Calumet had a brief moment of offensive success to open the second half. Sophomore Wyatt Loukus scored on Calumet’s first possession of half, and then junior Jack Hyrkas and Loukus each hit 3-pointers to give the Copper Kings eight points in a-1 minute, 50 second-span. However, they scored just three more points the rest of the quarter. Escanaba took its biggest lead of the game in the fourth quarter, after senior Jacob Rodman hit two free throws to make it 54-34. Hyrkas led Calumet with 11 points, and the Copper Kings finished with 16 turnovers. Escanaba got 13 points from senior Sam Taylor, who was the only other scorer besides Rose to notch double figures. The Eskymos turned the ball over 10 times and were out-rebounded by Calumet 35-29.
“I told my kids I thought we competed,” Ojala said. “From a standpoint of being physical and doing the things we talked about, I thought we did a decent job with a team that’s extremely hard to guard.”
Calumet finishes the regular season 12-8 and will play Hancock Monday in a district semifinal at Ironwood. Escanaba won the JV game 59-34.
Calumet 6 8 11 15 – 40
Escanaba 13 15 14 15 – 57
Calumet – Bjorn 5, Loukus 6, Anderson 2, Kariniemi 3, Hyrkas 11, Keranen 3, Pieti 5, Johnson 1, Twardzik 4. F: 16; FT: 7-16; Fouled Out: None; 3-point field goals: Hyrkas 2, Bjorn, Loukus, Keranen.
Escanaba – Hardwick 5, Rose 19, Baribeau 1, Molnar 5, Rodman 8, Ostrander 1, Taylor 13, Lamb 2, Leisenring 3. F: 19; FT: 18-28; Fouled Out: None; 3-point field goals: Rose 2, Molnar.