Veale leads Miners with career-high 23 points at Esky

ESCANABA – The Escanaba Eskymos made a couple of runs throughout the game in an attempt to chip away at Negaunee’s lead Wednesday night, but the Miners kept finding ways to weather the storm and come away with the 44-33 nonconference girls’ basketball victory in Escanaba.

Both teams began the game a little sloppy and were cold from the field.

Negaunee’s Kayla Hakala got the Miners going with a wide open triple, but Michelle LaFave of Escanaba was able to get inside repeatedly to give her team a 7-4 advantage.

However, once the Miners shook off their initial jitters, they got hot from the field. Negaunee took the lead, held it for the remainder of the contest.

“I don’t think we came out with enough energy,” said Escanaba coach Kelly O’Connell. “We got beat on the boards, beat on dribble penetration, and I was very disappointed with our defensive effort tonight.”

He added that his girls didn’t shoot the ball very well, and Negaunee has a team full of good shooters. That will typically lead to a recipe for defeat.

“We didn’t come out and play our A-game, that’s for sure,” O’Connell said.

Negaunee (11-1) put up five 3-pointers in the first half, but Escanaba managed to keep it close and the Miners only held a 21-15 lead at halftime.

Ashley Veale of Negaunee dominated the third quarter, driving to the basket and getting triples to pad the Miners’ lead. She finished with a career-high 23 points, including three triples that seemed to come at key times and silence the surging Escanaba crowd.

“We were patient with the ball, took good shots, and got as many stops as we could,” Veale said. “I feel like we played well. We depend a lot on the defense, and we had a good game.”

The Eskymos were able to get within seven points in the fourth quarter, but there just wasn’t enough time left to make a final stand and the Miners ran out the clock to win their 11th win this season.

“It was a solid performance,” said Negaunee coach Brandon Sager. “We had a game plan to try to stop LaFave. It worked at times, but she’s a good player and she made some unbelievable shots. All in all, she kept her team in the game, but our girls handled the pressure and pulled out the victory.”

LaFave put in 20 of her team’s 33 points, and was directly involved every time the Eskymos made a run.

Escanaba resumes Friday, hosting Iron Mountain. Negaunee, which took the JV game 44-40 in double overtime, resumes Monday at Marquette.

“That will be a test to really see how good we are,” Sager said.