Patriots road rally falls short at Esky

ESCANABA – The Westwood Patriots boys basketball team was down but definitely not out, as it rallied back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to give the Escanaba Eskymos a run for their money Tuesday night.

The Eskymos kept their composure, however, to close out the 62-56 non-conference contest.

“We knew they were going to be scrappy, and we had to hold them off,” said Escanaba coach Tracy Hudson.

Class C Westwood began the game with back-to-back turnovers, and the Eskymos capitalized on their mistakes, with Sam Molnar and Brandon Robinette scoring repeatedly on the fast break.

“A good start is really important for our team, so for us to win those first four minutes was big,” Hudson said. “We let our big guys like Robinette lead the break, and that puts a lot of pressure on (Westwood) because you’ve got a small (player) trying to match up with him.”

Escanaba marched out to a 16-9 lead after one, and it continued over into the second with Robinette finding his way inside the paint with ease.

The Patriots got a little more in sync in the second quarter, though, to finish out the half on a 7-2 run that helped get them back into the game.

“They had a solid three or four minutes and closed the deficit to 10 to go into the locker room, and then it was just a dogfight from there on out,” Hudson said.

Ben Kleiman got the third quarter going for the Eskymos with an old-fashioned three-point play as he was fouled on a putback shot. But for the most part, it was all Westwood, as Josh Richards hit back-to-back triples, and the Patriots outscored Escanaba 15-9 in the quarter to cut the lead to 39-35.

“I liked the effort in the second half, and that will keep us in ball games and maybe even win us some games if we can do four quarters of that,” Patriots coach Ryan Reichel said. “Our kids battled back. They showed resiliency.”

The fourth quarter was a sprint from beginning to end, as neither team was willing to concede defeat. Sam Molnar got hot for Escanaba, making a big triple and putting in some crucial free throws when he needed to.

But the Patriots got some help as well, as Richards added two more three-pointers and Luke Duquette and Travis Swanson worked their way to the interior.

With just 1:23 remaining, Westwood was only down by four points, but they were unable to find an open look and had to foul. The Eskymos didn’t knock them all down, but they made enough to put the game away.

In regards to Westwood, Hudson said that they may be winless, but they are a strong team for how young they are.

“They’re hungry, they’re disciplined and they never quit,” he said.

Robinette led all scorers with 23 points, and added nine rebounds.

“He had a great game,” Hudson said. “He attacked from the perimeter, he hustled, and I think he’s really coming into his own as a basketball player. He was a tough matchup for Westwood.”