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Escanaba wins 1st boys basketball regional title since 1960 with victory over Oscoda, 41-38

The Escanaba High School boys basketball team celebrates after winning its MHSAA Division 2 regional championship against Ludington on Thursday in Traverse City. (Traverse City Record-Eagle photo by Andrew Rosenthal)

TRAVERSE CITY — Tracy Hudson wasn’t even alive when Escanaba last won a basketball regional title.

Now Hudson and Escanaba’s 6-foot-7 duo of Colin and Carter Hudson has led EHS to their first state quarterfinal game since 1960.

Escanaba survived yet another game-ending, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Ludington 41-38 at Thursday’s MHSAA Division 2 regional at Traverse City Central High School.

Both Escanaba’s boys and girls teams advanced to the elite eight for the first time in school history after its girls beat that Ludington team on Wednesday.

“Right now, our school’s on cloud nine,” said Escanaba boys coach Tracy Hudson.

Escanaba led the entire fourth quarter in this back-and-forth brawl of tall northern Michigan foes. After a free throw make by Escanaba senior Erik Victorson, the Orioles gave the ball to freshman David Shillinger for a shot to tie the game on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer attempt.

However, defending a shot like that wasn’t anything new to Escanaba. Boyne City’s Jack Near missed a game-winning triple against EHS at the buzzer Tuesday, and Escanaba advanced to Thursday’s game because of it.

But Shillinger also was comfortable making a shot like that to force overtime — and he proved he could do it last Saturday with the game tied 35-35 and eight seconds to go to give Ludington a district final win over Cadillac.

“I was hoping he would pull it out again, but the shot didn’t fall,” Ludington sophomore Levi Laman said. “I definitely trusted him with that shot.”

Ludington got the rebound, but a pass out of desperation back to Shillinger sailed wide and out of bounds. From there, Tracy Hudson could only hold his team back from a premature celebration as Escanaba inbounded the ball with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. The game was essentially over.

The players from Escanaba leapt off the bench and rallied around the regional trophy at midcourt. It was history 61 years in the making.

“It’s been a while, and I’ve coached against Thad (Shank) a couple of times,” Tracy Hudson said. “We felt like we had a shot. The district was very tough to get out of. We felt like we had a shot in the regional. It was a goal of ours, to get to this championship game, and we basically won two nail biters.”

Hudson said it was a bit more comfortable of a trip over the bridge to Traverse City from the last time it played mid-February.

Because of an officiating conflict, Escanaba left town at 4 a.m. to face the Trojans of Traverse City Central. With a 6 p.m. tip off Thursday with Ludington, it left home at a more comfortable 11 a.m. — the time its game against TCC started.

“I think it gave us a lot of confidence. ‘Hey. We played in that gym. We’ve been successful against a really good team. We can do it,'” Hudson said. “And Ludington probably felt the same way.”

And another long trip is on the horizon. Escanaba (17-2) moves onto the state quarterfinals at Corunna to meet Bridgeport (16-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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