ESCANABA - The Escanaba Eskymos won three of four quarters Monday night as they hosted the Houghton Gremlins, but the one quarter they lost nearly undid them.
Escanaba blew a 15-point lead in the third, allowing a monster 28-point quarter from Houghton on a 16-0 run.
But the Eskymos showed their resolve down the stretch. They made the final score of 77-64 look more convincing than it was, but the Eskymos will certainly take it.
"We had a great first half. We wanted to play up-tempo," said Eskymos coach Tracy Hudson. "They came out and shot lights out in the third quarter. Trent Keteri got loose on us and (Nate Gockenbach) made some good inside plays. They just had a great third quarter."
Keteri was a thorn in the Eskymos' side from start to finish. Multiple times in the first half, Esky appeared ready to run away with the game, but Keteri kept leaving 'em spellbound. He scored a career-high 27 points on nine three-pointers, believed to be an HHS school record. He hit three triples in the first, one in the second, three in the third and two in the fourth, each one keeping the Gremlins (2-1) afloat against the energetic Eskymos (2-1).
"Trent shot phenomenal," said Houghton coach Jared Lawson. "Our team and I think a lot of people now in the U.P. understand that he's one of the best shooters in the Upper Peninsula, and he's shown that last year and now this year. He's really the anchor of our team, one of our three captains, keeping them afloat, keeping them in the game until everyone else could pick up their game."
Houghton 9 15 28 12 - 64
Escanaba 20 17 17 23 - 77
Houghton - Keteri 27, Collaer 2, Niemela 15, Bethancourt 2, Gockenbach 18; FT: 4-12; F: 17; Fouled out: Collaer; 3-point field goals: Keteri 9, Niemela.
Escanaba - Hardwick 8, Hiltunen 23, Kleiman 4, Molnar 9, Rodman 5, Ogren 8, Robinette 17, Skufca 3; FT: 5-13; F: 10; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Hardwick 2, Hiltunen 5, Molnar, Robinette, Skufca.
It was a Keteri trey that finally gave Houghton its first lead (55-54) at the start of the fourth quarter, after the Eskymos led 39-24 at the start of the third.
Throughout the third, the Gremlins found a formula that worked, with a suffocating trapping zone that seemed to frustrate Escanaba. The Eskymos committed the majority of their 17 turnovers in that stretch and Houghton capitalized.
But the Gremlins became so focused on plugging the lanes and shutting down Brandon Robinette that underrated guard Jamie Hiltunen was left open, and he took that shot.
Hiltunen rained down four triples in the fourth quarter, coming up with the hot hand at the right time to seal the victory. He finished with 23 points, matching his career high, and added four steals.
"They took Brandon away and trapped the ball, but Jamie - he did it to Gladstone last year. He doesn't score a lot of points, but if you leave him open, he's very opportunistic," said Hudson. "He really got it going late. He was really poised down the stretch."
Lawson was more than pleased with his team's second-half effort and was satisfied with losing the way Houghton did.
"I told the guys, especially with the defense we were playing, if they get some quick threes and that's the way we lose, that's OK," he said. "We kept them out of the lane, which was our biggest vulnerability in the first half. We pushed it out in the second half and it worked for a while, then Jamie caught some threes, right on the fast break even. He did a phenomenal job in the fourth quarter and pushed the game away from us. That was the difference in the end."
The Eskymos also gave a big defensive push down the stretch and got the fast break working like it was at the start of the game. Hudson credited his bench.
"With Tyler Hardwick, Jake Rodman and Tyler Skufca, we don't lose much when they're in there. We rotated in while they kept their guys out there. We had the energy in the fourth and that deep bench helped us make that late run," he said. "Houghton did a good job getting to the basket in the open court though. They're shifty, but I think we have good ball-handlers that finally adjusted to the zone."
Robinette scored 17 points with 15 rebounds as the Eskymos shot 31-of-56 from the field, including 10-of-26 from 3-point range.
For Houghton, Gockenbach scored 18 points and Eero Niemela added 15 as Houghton shot 25-of-60 from the field.
Houghton returns to action Thursday at rival Hancock.