Marquette Sentinels boys basketball team hangs on down the stretch to nip Escanaba, 80-77

MARQUETTE — Despite a furious battle until the final whistle, the Escanaba boys basketball team fell one play short.

The Eskymos dropped a Great Northern Conference road game 80-77 at Marquette on Thursday.

“It was a good test for us to see what kind of character we have,” Marquette coach Rich Ledy said. “Escanaba is a good team. (Senior Shane) Wallin is a really good player. (Cody Noel) was a load for us.”

Esky is now 8-9 overall and 1-6 in GNC play. With the win, the Sentinels improved to 14-3 overall and 7-0 in conference play while clinching at least a share of the conference title. They actually bumped their mark to 15-3 overall when they held off St. Ignace 93-88 in overtime on Friday night.

“A loss is a loss, but we gave the No. 2 team (in the Upper Peninsula) all they could handle,” Esky coach Scott Hanson said about the Sentinels’ ranking in the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters weekly poll of Divisions 1-3 teams. “I think we played about as well as we could have.

“Every time (Marquette) took it to us a little bit, we came back and answered. I’m really proud of our resilience.”

After six lead changes and three ties, the Eskymos found themselves down 68-59 with 5:12 remaining.

On top of the nine-point deficit, Wallin, who accumulated 20 points, picked up his fifth foul that knocked him out of the game. If the Eskymos wanted to rally for a win over this highly ranked squad, they’d have to do it without their hottest shooter.

But in the same moment Wallin picked up his fifth foul, the Sentinels committed a technical foul.

Eskymos junior Javon Stevenson went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws by himself. With no one else in the vicinity, Stevenson knocked down both free throws and still high-fived the air where teammates would’ve been standing in a normal free throw situation.

Then the Eskymos forced Marquette to throw the ball away out of bounds on their ensuing possession. Stevenson had a chance in the paint, but was fouled on his shot attempt. He made one of two free throws to pull the visitors within six.

The Eskymos’ defense came away with another stop, and Stevenson responded by connecting in the paint to shave the Marquette lead to 68-64 with 4:01 to go.

Once again, Esky forced the Sentinels into an unsuccessful offensive trip. And back on offense, this time they fed Noel, a junior center. He went to work in the paint and drew a foul, making both pull free throws to pull their team within 68-66 with 3:29 left.

Marquette’s next possession saw the ball sail out of bounds. Esky ball, and Hanson took a timeout to set something up to tie the game.

The ball went into the hands of Stevenson, but Sentinels’ senior Jack Quinnell stole it and then fed the ball to junior Jacob MacPhee.

MacPhee went the distance, scored a layup and drew a foul. He made the free throw to complete a “traditional” three-point play and up Marquette’s advantage to 71-66 with 2:49 to go.

MacPhee struck again with a reverse layup to give Marquette a 73-66 lead with 1:51 left.

Then Esky sophomore Lennox Peacock connected from 3-point range 10 seconds later to keep his team within striking distance, down four points.

With less than 90 seconds remaining, the Eskymos were forced to send the Sentinels to the free throw line. MSHS junior Kyle Sager knocked down a pair with 1:24 to go to open a 75-69 lead. Then Romps was stripped of the ball by Quinnell and fed the ball to junior Jaxon Jurmu, who was fouled and split his free throws with 1:09 left for a seven-point lead.

Esky still didn’t back down.

Romps connected with a jumper to get it to 76-71 with 52 seconds left. The Eskymos got a steal, which turned into a Stevenson layup. With 43 seconds to go, Esky was back within three, 76-73.

Then Jurmu got sent to the free throw line with 37.2 seconds remaining. He made both, and the lead was back to five.

Peacock fired from 3-point range with 29 seconds to go, but missed. Sager got his hands on the loose ball and ended up on the free throw line. But after he missed both free throws, Romps drove to the hole to make it a 78-75 game and prompt an Esky timeout with 13.2 seconds remaining.

Jurmu got the ball and was immediately fouled. He made both freebies with 8.3 seconds to go to reopen a five-point lead.

Senior Ben Johnson scored off a putback with 1.8 seconds left, forcing Hanson to burn a timeout to set up one last defensive stand.

It proved to be unsuccessful. Leading 18-11 after the first quarter and 35-32 at the half, Esky fell short, and Marquette found a way to win.

In addition to Wallin’s 20 points, Noel totaled 18 points and Stevenson finished with 17.

MacPhee and Sager totaled 19 points each for Marquette. Jurmu finished with 18 and Quinnell added 12 points.

The Sentintels play three home games this week, facing Houghton at 6:30 p.m. today, Negaunee at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Minocqua Lakeland, Wisconsin, at 2 p.m. Saturday.


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