EagleHerald Sports Editor
MENOMINEE—Expectations for a clash of the titans were quickly buried underneath an avalanche of 3-pointers, as the Menominee boys basketball team left little doubt as to who is the top team in the Upper Peninsula with a 77-42 blowout of Escanaba on Friday.
Menominee torched the nets from deep all night, draining 15 triples, five of which came courtesy of Brody Waara, who finished with 17 points.
Aidan Bellisle led all scorers with 24 points and drilled four treys of his own, while Brady Schultz tacked on a trio of 3-pointers on his way to a 12-point outing.
Both teams entered the game tied atop the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Division 1-3 poll but Menominee coach Sam Larson said that the Maroons (1-0 Great Northern Conference, 5-1 overall) prepared for the Eskymos (4-1 GNC, 6-2 overall) with the mentality of an underdog.
“We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder tonight. I’m super impressed with how hard our guys played,” he said. “I thought that we had a good week of practice preparing for this game and the fruits of our labor showed tonight.”
Menominee’s offense performed like a well-oiled machine from the opening tipoff, with Schultz hitting a pair of 3-pointers as the Maroons jumped to an 11-1 lead. Menominee tacked on another trey from Brady Badker but a layup by Nathan Howes cut Esky’s deficit to nine.
Bellisle and Cooper Conway both scored to push Menominee’s lead up to 13 until Colin Hudson drilled a triple to make it an 18-8 game at the end of the first quarter.
Hudson led the Eskymos with 18 points and was the only Esky player to hit double-digit scoring totals.
“Hudson is an extremely good player. There were times that I thought we had good defense on him and he still scored,” Larson said. “Our plan was to try to take him away and make the other guys on their team score, but he still got good looks. I don’t think you’re able to keep a player of his caliber down for the entire game.”
The two teams traded baskets throughout the second quarter, with treys by Hudson and Howes helping Esky cut Menominee’s lead to eight midway through the quarter. Bellisle hit a mid-range jumper while Waara canned a 3-pointer and Conway converted a layup as the Maroons closed on a 7-0 run to make it a 35-20 game at halftime.
Six of Menominee’s long-range bombs came in the first half, setting the tone for the Maroons’ offensive attack.
“Offensively we hit shots. Brody really provided a spark for us and knocked down some big shots and that really fueled everyone else. Ball movement-wise we were very unselfish and found the open man,” Larson said.
The third quarter began with a familiar sight as Waara banged home a pair of 3-pointers while Badker added a layup as Menominee’s lead swelled to 23 points. The Maroons hit three more treys to make it a 31-point game before Conway converted a pair of free throws, putting Menominee ahead 56-25 and forcing an Esky timeout.
Weaver and Hudson both scored while Hanson clanged in a 3-pointer as the Eskymos made it a 58-32 affair at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter opened with a layup from Lukas Weaver and a trey by Hudson as Esky pulled within 31, but the Maroons responded with 10 points from Bellisle while Trevor Theuerkauf hit a free throw to keep Menominee ahead by 32.
Weaver hit a jumper, again making it a 30-point game, but Theuerkauf and Brock Murphy each drilled a 3-pointer to push Menominee’s lead to 36. Adam Willette sank a free throw with 33 seconds remaining for Esky’s final points.
After three straight games of allowing 50 points or more, Larson said that he was happy to see the Maroons’ defense regain its early-season form, where it allowed 27 points to Antigo and 46 against Ogemaw Heights.
“We regained the defensive intensity that we had shown in the earlier parts of the season and really came out with a lot of intensity and discipline on that end,” he said.
Badker chipped in 11 points for the Maroons while Conway added six and Theuerkauf contributed four.
Howes and Weavers each finished with six points for Esky. Connor Smale finished with four.
Menominee is at home against Gibraltar (1-4 Packerland Conference, 5-5 overall) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Menominee 77, Escanaba 42
Menominee 18 17 23 19—77
Escanaba 8 12 12 12—42
Menominee: Bellisle 24, Waara 17, Schultz 12, Badker 11, Conway 6, Theuerkauf 4, Murphy 3; FTs: 6-7.
Escanaba: Hudson 18, Howes 6, Weaver 6, Hanson 5, Smale 4, Willette 3, Casey Bray 2; FTs: 4-7.