Menominee's Devon Barley takes a fade-away jumper against an Escanaba defender Wednesday in Menominee. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Menominee's Devon Barley takes a fade-away jumper against an Escanaba defender Wednesday in Menominee.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MENOMINEE - With ice forming on the Escanaba rims, Ben Kleiman and Jamie Hiltunen were the icebreakers and Sam Molnar was the ice auger for the Eskymos.

Kleiman jump-started a frosty perimeter game and Molnar took the chill out of a frigid night at the line to lift Escanaba to a 50-45 Great Northern Conference win over Menominee Wednesday night.

The Eskymos wiped out a 41-37 deficit when Hiltunen drilled in a three and then cashed in a steal for a layup to give them a 42-41 lead with 3:01 remaining.

Molnar misfired on four of five free throws before nailing down the win with five straight pressure-packed shots from the line in the final two minutes.

"I told the kids to be ready because they're starting to play Menominee basketball," Escanaba coach Tracy Hudson said. "I thought it would be down to one possession.

"We were fortunate to come out of here with a win. We won the last five minutes. Our kids responded."

The Eskymos had connected on just 3 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter before Molnar turned in his game-clinching effort at the line in front of a howling Maroon student section.

The Maroons turned the ball over just six times in the second half, but two miscues in the closing minutes proved pivotal.

"We didn't set it up right against their press," said Menominee coach Pete Pericolosi.

Devon Harris drove the baseline and flipped in a reverse layup while being hacked and added the free throw and Marcus McKenney buried two FTs to give Menominee its four-point lead.

Hiltunen took a pass on an inbounds play and jacked in his huge 3-pointer.

"I thought a big key in the game was on the inbounds play, we had a breakdown and they hit that three," Pericolosi said. "That was a huge mental mistake for us."

Both teams iced up in the first half, combining for a 12 of 49 slog from the floor as the Maroons scratched out to a 17-14 halftime lead.

"We battled through some offensive struggles, " said Hudson. "Both defenses battled. (Tyler) Hardwick gave us a spark on defense and Kleiman gave us a spark on offense."

Ryan Woods won a scramble for a loose ball and fed Harris for a basket to give the Maroons a 27-22 lead early in the third quarter.

Kleiman took a blow torch to the Eskymos' icy 3-point shooting by knocking down three triples in the quarter and Brandon Robinette added a 3-ball as Esky surged to a 36-32 lead.

"Kleiman was our spark," said Hudson. "I'm kind of superstitious. He came off the bench and was our spark (against Menominee) in Escanaba and he was our spark off the bench tonight."

The Maroons sank just 1 of 10 3-pointers and finished 16 of 49 from the floor, hampered by a string of point-blank misses.

"We missed so many bunnies," said Pericolosi.

The Eskymos sank just 17 of 46 shots and misfired on 16 of 21 shots from the arc.

Harris led the Maroons with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while holding Brandon Robinette to 13 points, seven under his average.

"Devon Harris had a tremendous all-around game," said Pericolosi. "He's been good all year."

Adam Nolde, who had bombed in 10 3-pointers in the last two games, finished with 10 points, but just one 3-pointer.