EWEN - Opponents don't often leave Ewen with 34-point victories.
But Lake Linden-Hubbell already is playing like the U.P. top-five Little 5 team it was last year and Ewen-Trout Creek is adjusting to an inexperienced team that is playing one of the toughest schedules of anyone in the U.P.
Lake Linden won 84-50 on Saturday night.
Even the Panthers' JV team went 18-2 last year and the E-TC varsity team hasn't finished under .500 since the 2004-05 season, so nobody was used to playing from that far behind. By hanging their heads instead of trying to fight back, it snowballed, E-TC coach Brad Besonen said.
"I told the guys the way we've been in the past, if somebody gets up 20 on us, they're not going to be satisfied," Besonen said. "They're going to try to push it and really bury us because we've had success in the past. If we don't really buckle down in those 20-point situations, things are going to get ugly like they did tonight."
It didn't help that Lake Linden looked to be in mid-season form.
"I'm not sure we could have played better than that," Lake Linden coach Jack Kumpula said. "I think we shot 46 percent for the game. We really played well. This is a game pointed to. We've never beat Ewen down here that I recall."
The Lakes jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the first quarter, but E-TC scored four straight points to end the frame.
Lane Brown, who scored a game-high 25 points, was responsible for those four points and E-TC's first four baskets of the second quarter. Lake Linden hit just two shots during Brown's 12-4 run and E-TC trailed 25-18.
Later in the second quarter, the Panthers hit a 3 and pulled within 30-26. It couldn't sustain the momentum into halftime as Lake Linden outscored E-TC 11-3 the rest of the half and went into the break with a 41-29 advantage.
"The thorn in the side in the first half was just our missed box outs," Besonen said. "They just had extra possessions and putbacks on those. Without those extra possessions, I think we're even at the end of the first half."
The Lakes steadily pulled away almost the entire second half. E-TC pulled back within 52-39 on a 3 by Landon Maki, but Lake Linden responded with the next 16 points.
E-TC turned it over often in the second half and Lake Linden was able to dribble past E-TC defenders and then kick out for open 3s. The Lakes made seven triples in the game.
The Panthers played fast pretty well while catching up in the first half, but for the most part, speed was the enemy. Opponents usually fear the speed of E-TC.
"I thought we did a terrible job of playing fast," Besonen said. "We made numerous bad passes on the fly. It's what we like to do to people. We like to pressure people and make them play fast, make mistakes; maybe not make the steal but force them into bad decisions, force them into a bad shot. That's exactly what we did against their pressure. We wanted to attack it."
Brown had half of E-TC's points.
"I think Lane was our one bright spot," Besonen said. "He finished really well. He really was working hard. We just had nothing to go along with it. He had a good motor tonight and a lot of other guys didn't have a good motor."
Kumpula said, "Even with our solid defense, we gave up 25 to Lane Brown. He was tough."
Tyler Roose, an All-U.P. Class D Second Teamer last year, and Brett Poissant led five Lakes in double figures with 18 points each. Luke Monette had 13, Trevor Ongie 11 and Cody Kunnari 10.
"Us feeling our strength is inside, I think Poissant made us look silly inside," Besonen said. "Our bigs got outplayed by Poissant."
Lake Linden hopes to play like this all season.
"We took the ball to the hole. We played really good solid defense," Kumpula said. "We never gave them good looks. We shot well. We worked for good shots and we knocked them down."
E-TC (1-2) travels to Hurley Tuesday for another tough non-conference game and then hosts Bessemer Friday for a Porcupine Mountain Conference battle.