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Esky hits buzzer-beater to defeat Negaunee girls

ESCANABA — Nicole Kamin could only be held down so long.

After being held to just six points through three quarters, Escanaba’s star junior forward came alive in the fourth, scoring nine points, including a game-winning floater at the buzzer, to lift the Eskymos to a 50-48 come-from-behind win over nonconference opponent Negaunee Tuesday night in Escanaba.

The Eskymos trailed 42-31 entering the final quarter before rallying back to tie it 48-48.

With 20 seconds remaining, they called timeout to draw up a play for the win. The play didn’t go as planned, but it ended up in the right person’s hands.

Taylor Ray ran the clock down until there was 10 seconds left, then had the ball knocked out of her hands on her drive. Mari Bink recovered the loose ball and got it to Kamin, who drove down the right baseline and flipped up a game-winning floater from just outside the key while being guarded by two Negaunee defenders as the final buzzer sounded.

“Taylor got the ball and I had two screens coming my way,” Kamin explained. “I went around, and then we kind of lost the ball, but we got it back. It got to me, I got by my girl, and then I kind of got a lucky shot.”

It didn’t seem like luck. After all, this is the same girl who launched a clutch game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against North Branch in last summer’s softball state semifinals.

“I guess I’m just a lucky person,” she said with a laugh. “I try to not let the nerves get to me.”

Esky coach Mike Beveridge gave his version of what happened on the final play.

“It was drawn up on the chalkboard — we’ve never had that play put in,” he said. “We did an isolation under 10 seconds so we’d get the last shot. I isolated Nicole and Taylor on one side, and we tried to screen for Nicole so Taylor and her could go to the hoop … Something happened where where it got tipped, Mari Bink made a nice recovery of it, we got it to Nicole and she made a floater. It was a tough, tough shot at the buzzer.”

The Eskymos (2-1) had to make a ton of plays just to put themselves in that spot. After trailing 25-19 at the half and watching their deficit grow to 11 going into the fourth, Ray started the quarter with a triple.

Negaunee (2-1) was still ahead 46-39 after a layup by Chloe Norman with 3:31 left, but Esky fought back and pulled within 48-46 on a pull-up 3-pointer by Kamin with 55 ticks left. After a timeout, Esky utilized a full-court press as Bink came up with a steal and dished it to Ray for a layup to tie it 48-48 with 51 seconds to go.

“You draw it up and you say this is what we need to do, and we did it,” Beveridge said. “We were too far behind to make something happen, and for everything to happen to turn out the way it did was kind of incredible because the girls just never quit. You could see their effort was there. We got the turnovers, we got the easy buckets, we got some key rebounds… It just felt good because they started playing better basketball, and you just hoped they had a chance at the end.”

Negaunee had an opportunity to take the lead, but a 3-point attempt by Norman hit the top of the backboard before dropping in to give Esky the final possession.

“What we talked about after the game is with a young team, it’s a good learning lesson,” Miners’ coach Mike O’Donnell said. “When you let a team hang around and hang around, (bad things happen). I thought we had it to the point where we could pull away from them a couple times in the second half, but credit to Escanaba. They kept grinding and grinding and stayed close enough, and you just had that feeling that, ‘Oh boy, this is going to come down to the wire,’ by the way it was going, and it did. You let a team hang around long enough, that’s usually how it goes — they end up hitting a shot at the buzzer to beat you. You see it all the time.”

The Eskymos jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter before the Miners responded with a 17-0 run to take an 11-point lead with 5:28 left in the second quarter. They led the rest of the way until Kamin’s buzzer-beater.

“Halfway through the third quarter it didn’t look good,” Beveridge said. “I knew Taylor had to get going, I knew Nicole had to get going, and we had some young kids out there that made some big plays. It was just one of those things where everything started to fall in place, so our confidence should be good for the next game.”

Ray led Esky offensively with 17 points and three steals, while Kamin added 15 points and eight steals. Bink chipped in eight points and five steals.

Sophomore forward Alyssa Hill had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Miners. Norman chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

Esky, which won the jayee game 51-19, hosts Sault Ste. Marie Friday. Negaunee hosts Houghton Friday.

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