ESCANABA - The Negaunee Miners posted a daunting 22-3 record last season, easily putting them amongst the elite teams in the Upper Peninsula. When they came to play Escanaba Tuesday, it appears not much has changed.
The Miners (1-0) defeated the Eskymos on their home floor, 70-32, and it was a lopsided contest right from the start.
"In the first quarter, it was positive," Negaunee coach Mike O'Donnell said. "We really had some energy, we were flying around, creating some turnovers, getting some easy baskets, hitting some perimeter shots. Any time that happens on the road at the start, you feel good.
"They just kind of fed off of that positive start and continued with it throughout the rest of the game."
Negaunee's Tanner Uren opened with back-to-back deuces before teammate Michael Anderson hit a 3-pointer, putting the Eskymos in a 7-0 hole.
Escanaba simply couldn't catch a break in the early part of the game; what looked like a nice drive to the hole and a lay-in resulted in a charging call.
Then, Escanaba coach Tracy Hudson was called for a technical foul, just his second in 17 years of coaching.
The Miners charged out to a 20-8 lead after the opening quarter, and piled on to start the second when Negaunee's Tyler Jandron nailed a triple and was fouled. He hit both free throws that followed, adding five points to their already massive lead.
Escanaba found itself in the penalty early on, and Negaunee took full advantage, living at the line for the remainder of the half. It didn't help that they were also knocking down virtually every shot they took, and their press kept Escanaba flustered, leading to turnovers and transition buckets.
The Eskymos were held to only four points in the quarter, and the game was all but wrapped up at halftime as they faced a 39-12 deficit.
"We played a very talented team that really doesn't have any weaknesses," Hudson said. "I think this is one of about seven or eight teams in Class C that could win a state championship, I really do.
"There's no shame in losing to them the way we did. We're just a better team than we showed tonight. We didn't execute."
In the second half, Negaunee outscored Escanaba 31-20, and put in their reserves in the fourth quarter. Escanaba did, however, keep the game from going to a running clock until the final minute, due in large part to the efforts of Jordan Ogren's play in the final quarter.
Rebounding was dominated by Negaunee, which pulled down 40 boards.
Negaunee also won the JV game, 66-54.