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Esky boys bounce back, defeat Norway



Sean Chase Daily News
Escanaba junior Cody Noel goes up for a layup on Feb. 9, 2024 at Norway High School.

NORWAY — After honoring its seniors ahead of the game, things looked to be playing out perfectly for the Norway boys varsity basketball team on Friday as the Knights (13-5, 4-0) took a lead into halftime against Escanaba.

However, the Eskymos (9-9, 1-6) caught fire in the third quarter and escaped Norway High School with a 67-56 non-conference win over the No. 5 ranked team in Division 4, according to the UPSSA.

“In the first half, I thought they gave us a pretty good shot and we hung in there,” Escanaba head coach Scott Hanson said. “There have been a lot of games, for us, where we’ve answered that call and there’ve been a few games where we haven’t. So, I was happy we answered the call.”

Despite looking strong against Escanaba’s defense in the first 16 minutes, Norway head coach Jeff Gallino didn’t like how his team handled the zone in the key moments.

“We wanted to push the ball in transition, we figured we had an advantage there,” Gallino said. “We shot the ball really well in the first half. In the second half, our offense was pretty stagnant. We didn’t do a good job of attacking the 2-3 zone, I thought we could have done better with that.”

Eskymos senior Shane Wallin led all scorers with 27 points.

“I thought the high post was open all night, we were just unable to get it in there for the most part,” Gallino said. “Hats off to them, (Shane) Wallin had a heck of a game and so did (Cody) Noel.”

Escanaba junior Cody Noel finished with 22 points.

“Cody Noel, that’s the best game of his career, he had a super game,” Hanson said. Norway senior Alex Ortman has been on a tear lately, and Friday was no exception as he ended the game with 24 points.

“We wanted to keep Ortman from getting a full head of steam,” Hanson said. “We weren’t perfect with it but we were better at giving him a little bit more space and making him slow down a little bit. When he gets going, he’s hard to stay in front of. He played a phenomenal game.”

The Knights sent senior Wyatt Spade into the game as a starter. He has missed the entire season after suffering a knee injury during football season.

Esky won the tip and scored a layup and then everyone cleared out for Spade, as he drained a layup and celebrated with his teammates, before subbing out.

The Eskymos took a quick 7-2 lead and Norway came to life.

Ortman added five points in the first quarter and junior Cole Baij netted seven as the Knights took an 18-11 lead into the second.

“I thought Cole (Baij) had a great game underneath,” Gallino said. “He did the best he could. Obviously, with Forest Park coming up, a game like this is very good for us.”

Mason Trudeau converted a free throw, pushing Norway’s lead to 19-11 30 seconds into the second frame, but then Escanaba responded as Wallin buried a 3-pointer from the left wing.

Down 22-14, after a Bryce Adams three, the Eskymos turned to Noel.

“When they did have to press, it bothered us, but we were able to get a couple layups on the backside,” Hanson said.

He scored eight points in the paint and cut the Norway lead to five, 27-22.

Wallin connected on consecutive 3-pointers as time wound down in the quarter, but seven points from Ortman kept the Knights ahead 34-32 at halftime.

Both teams turned up the defensive intensity in the third quarter. However, it was the size of Escanaba that frustrated and the Eskymos used that to grab a 45-37 lead going into the final frame.

Ortman opened the fourth with a 3-pointer from the left wing, but Escanaba junior Javon Stevenson answered with a three of his own to keep the lead at eight points.

Trudeau scored four points down the stretch while Ortman added six, but it wasn’t enough and the Eskymos rolled to the 67-56 win.

Stevenson (6 points), David Romps (5 points), Lennox Peacock (2 points) and Ben Johnson (5 points) also contributed to Escanaba’s offensive output.

Norway received contributions from Ian Popp (4 points), Adams (10 points), Cole Baij (9 points), Trudeau (5 points), AJ Gallino (2 points) and Spade (2 points).

The Eskymos are in Jeffers on Friday at 7 p.m. EST while the Knights return to play on Tuesday at 6 p.m. with a road trip to Forest Park.

Although things didn’t end up in Norway’s favor, Coach Gallino believes it was a good warmup for the Trojans.

“I think it helps immensely,” Gallino said. “It just so happens, Esky is similar in size to Forest Park and they’ve got numbers, so they rotate their guys like Forest Park. So hopefully, we learned something tonight and we’ll improve.”

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