By John Vrancic
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - It didn't take long for the Escanaba boys to dash out of the gates Thursday night, racing to an 86-56 basketball victory over the West Iron County Wykons.
Paul Girard Photo
West Iron County’s Austin Waara shoots over Escanaba’s defense on Thursday.
Esky, which sank five 3-point shots in the first quarter, led 17-0 less than four minutes into this non-conference outing.
"The starts are something we had been struggling with," said Esky coach Tracy Hudson. "We're happy with the way we came out. We wanted the kids to understand how important the mental part of the game is, and we could tell in locker room (before the game) they were ready to play. We have a lot of respect for West Iron. We were expecting a very tight game."
The Wykons finally got on the board on a 12-foot jump shot by senior guard Austin Waara with 3:58 left in the opening frame.
"You have to start the game with effort," said West Iron coach Dan Schive. "What we saw from our team in the first quarter wasn't effort. We got a whipping and we deserved it."
West Iron recovered somewhat, trimming its deficit to 28-16 on Waara's jumper from the lane early in the second stanza.
Escanaba (2-4), however, didn't allow the Wykons to get any closer.
"We thought they (Wykons) would come out in a man-to-man (defense)," said Hudson. "We also expected some zone. But they came out and stayed in a zone, and our guys did a nice job attacking it. I think West Iron has a real good team. They're well coached. You have to remember Houghton beat us by 20 points (64-44 on Dec. 10) and they beat Houghton (69-59 on Dec. 17). I thought this one would be decided by less than five points either way. I think they just had an off night."
Esky junior center Brandon Robinette matched a career-high 26 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and collected four assists. Sophomore guard Sam Molnar added 13 points and six assists. Junior guard Jamie Hiltunen hit 11 points and senior center Dan LaPalm had 10 points in a reserve role.
"I thought we had good balance," said Hudson. "We talked about getting four players in double digits and we did that. Brandon is real dangerous. It's nice to have a five who can bring the ball down the court. Sam made great decisions with the ball in the open court. Dan gave us a spark off the bench and Storm (Fournier) gave us great minutes off the bench. What I was really happy with is we had 22 assists."
Waara finished with 18 points. Junior forward Adam Newby, fueled by a solid third quarter, added 13. Junior center Andy Ridolphi, who left the contest with an ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter, had 11.
"I thought we played better in the third quarter and half of the fourth," said Schive. "Only, by then we were too far behind. We're a better team than we showed tonight. We better learn it's not fun to get a whipping."
Esky held a 46-33 rebounding advantage, with junior forward Ben Kleiman adding nine boards.
"We're still a pretty young team," said Hudson. "For us, the biggest thing is we need to get more physical."
Both teams committed 19 turnovers.
The Eskymos converted 30-of-63 field goals and the Wykons (3-1) were 21-of-66 from the floor.
Escanaba, which hosts Calumet Saturday night, beat West Iron 63-22 in the jayvee game and Bark River-Harris in the freshman contest 73-33.
West Iron resumes Jan. 3 by hosting North Dickinson.
West Iron 10 12 19 15 - 56
Escanaba 24 21 20 21 - 86
West Iron County - Ralston 2, Pangrazzi 4, Adam Newby 13, Rogers 3, Waara 18, Aren Newby 2, Hopkins 3, Ridolphi 11. FT: 10-19; F: 26; Fouled out: Ralston, Stafford; 3-point field goals: Rogers, Waara.
Escanaba - Macon 2, Hiltunen 11, Kleiman 7, Molnar 13, Ogren 5, Robinette 26, LaPalm 10, Falish 3, Fournier 8, Berhow 1. FT: 18-31; F: 18; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Hiltunen 2, Molnar 2, Kleiman, Falish, Fournier.