Escanaba girls basketball team catches, passes Gwinn

Gwinn’s Tierra Taylor takes a jump shot against Escanaba in their high school girls basketball game played at the Eskymos' gym on Wednesday. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Mike Mattson)

ESCANABA — A late-game surge made a world of difference for the Escanaba girls Wednesday night as they earned a 69-55 basketball victory over the visiting Gwinn Modeltowners.

The nonconference victory snapped a three-game losing steak for the Eskymos, who improved to 3-3. Gwinn is 2-3.

“We told the girls this was a must-win game going into the (Christmas) break,” Esky coach Mike Beveridge said. “There’s a huge difference between 3-3 and 2-4. This is a big morale booster. This gives us a positive attitude going into the break.”

The Eskymos were clinging to a 58-55 lead midway through the fourth quarter. A layup by senior Mykenzie Monkevich put Esky up by five points with 3:23 left.

“Mykenzie’s layup was huge,” said Beveridge. “That gave us a lot of momentum and the girls started playing better at the end.”

Junior Cassidi Stannard then converted a traditional 3-point play with a six-foot jump shot and free throw just 21 seconds later to put the Eskymos up 63-55.

Esky’s game-clinching run was preceded by a technical foul on Beveridge during which the Modeltowners were able to convert just one free throw.

“I was mad, and I think the girls got motivated and started spreading the score,” he said. “Gwinn has a very good team. We knew it was going to be a battle to the end.”

The Modeltowners grabbed a 44-38 lead early in the third stanza. The Eskymos, however, responded with seven unanswered points, taking a 45-44 lead with a steal and layup by junior guard Lexi Chaillier.

Gwinn took its final lead, 47-45, on a 10-foot set shot by sophomore guard Marissa Delmont with slightly more than a minute remaining in the third.

The Eskymos finished that quarter with a 7-1 run, taking a 52-48 lead on an underhanded lay-in by freshman forward Nicole Kamin.

Esky’s cushion grew to 57-48 on a free throw by Stannard with 5:39 left.

The Modeltowners did chip away at their deficit, trimming it to 57-54 on a gifter by junior guard Trisha McGuire and to 58-55 on the technical. Esky, however, didn’t allow them to regain the lead.

“It was an exciting game anyway,” Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said. “We told the girls if we’re going to go down, we’re going down swinging.

“It was a nip-and-tuck game all the way. Only we went cold from the floor.

“We have to give Escanaba credit. They’re a solid team. They have some athletic guards. We feel we’re a pretty good defensive team and they put up 69 points on us.”

The score was tied 18-18 after the opening frame. A 23-foot jumper from the left wing by junior guard Mallory Delmont put the Modeltowners up 21-18 just 20 seconds into the second quarter.

Gwinn led by as much as 32-24 midway through the second and hung on for a 40-36 halftime cushion.

“We told the girls we had to get out to a good start, which we did,” Beveridge said. “But Gwinn came out and hustled. I was a little worried at halftime, then we held them to 15 points in the second half, which tells us we did something right.”

Monkevich led the Eskymos with a career-high 19 points. Chaillier added 16.

“Mykenzie broke out tonight,” Beveridge said. “She played very hard and had her best game so far. Her confidence also grew, which is important.”

Junior guards Brooke Manor and Mallory Delmont hit 12 points apiece for the Modeltowners, who committed 24 turnovers and hit just 11 of 26 free throws.

“Free throw shooting has been our Achilles heel since I’ve come here,” said Olsen, now in his sixth year as head coach. “I think that’s something that’s made in the off-season by shooting a hundred of those each day in your driveway or in the gym.”

The Eskymos had 21 miscues and also struggled from the line, hitting 13 of 24 shots. Esky, however, scored 17 points off turnovers and 13 on extra-chance opportunities.

Gwinn resumes play when it visits Marquette on Tuesday, Jan. 2.