Escanaba’s run comes to an end against Portland

4/6/2021 | Game Recap | By James Cook
Houghton Lake

M aybe Houghton Lake isn’t the luckiest place for Escanaba.

Escanaba’s girls teams witnessed long playoffs end in Houghton Lake twice already this season, both after deep runs. This season’s basketball run is the longest in program history.

This time, it’s a 47-41 Division 2 girls basketball setback to Portland (18-2), which moves on to play Parma Western (18-4) in Wednesday’s semifinals at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

Seven Escanaba players were held out after going on spring break last week, four of whom see regular minutes.

That’s similar to in January, when the Eskymos brought a short-handed volleyball team to the regional finals, also at Houghton Lake. Cadillac won that match en route to a Final Four berth. The basketball and volleyball teams have four players in common.

“I mean it’s pretty big,” Eskymos junior Maddy Monkevich said. “We were breaking history. We really thought we could pull a dub tonight. But that’s a good season. We had a good run with eight girls. That’s all we can really do.”

Escanaba never led but pulled within three on Mari Bink’s second 3-pointer of the night with 48 seconds remaining.

Portland, which had made just 6 of 17 free throws up to that point, sank three of four in the last 33 seconds to help seal the victory. The Eskymos hit on 6 of 17 from the line.

“Our free throws let us down tonight,” Escanaba head coach Mike Beveridge said. “That was what hurt us. Normally, we’re a really good free-throw shooting team. But our effort was there, I’m so proud of the girls.”

The Eskymos finish with a 14-5 record and the program’s longest playoff voyage, something Monkevich said they hope to keep going.

“A lot of the girls are stoked about it,” Monkevich said. “So our names will be somewhere.”

Grand Valley State University commit Nicole Kamin was the only one out of three seniors to play Monday.

“Hopefully we can do this again,” Monkevich said, “but further next time.”

Kamin led the Eskymos with 14 points.

“Both teams played extremely hard,” Portland head coach Jason Haid said. “That’s a well-coached team. Those kids are so tough. They’re gritty; they made things tough for us all game with their ball pressure. They’re a tough team to guard because they have a lot of shooters. (Kamin) is a tremendous athlete and makes things happen. So we told our girls it’s going to take a team effort to stop her; it’s not gonna take one kid. You can tell why she’s going to Grand Valley State. She’s a heck of a ballplayer.”

Bink added 11 for Escanaba and Monkevich nine. Keira Maki scored four and Kaitlyn Stalberger three.

“I’m so proud, so proud of these girls,” Beveridge said. “We’ve got a good program. Our program is developing and we’ve got  good young girls coming up, so I’m looking forward to the next couple of years.”

Portland won its last regional in 2010 but claimed district titles in three of the last five seasons. The 2009-10 Raiders advanced to the Final Four, falling to eventual state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

“Obviously these kids were in elementary school when that happened,” Haid said, “so they’re just like super excited to be there.”

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