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Andrew Rosenthal | Traverse City record-breaking eagle Escanaba celebrates after winning a Division 3 regional final against Ludington on Thursday April 1st in Traverse City Central.

TRAVERSE CITY – Tracy Hudson wasn’t even alive the last time Escanaba won a regional basketball title.

Now, Hudson and Escanaba’s 6-foot-7 duo of Colin and Carter have taken Hudson EHS to their first quarter-finals since 1960.

Escanaba survived another 3-pointer at the end of the game, beating Ludington 41-38 in Division 2 Regional on Thursday at Traverse City Central High School. Both Escanaba’s boys and girls rose to the Elite 8 for the first time in school history after their girls defeated Ludington on Wednesday.

“At the moment our school is on cloud nine” said Tracy Hudson, the Escanaba coach.

Escanaba led the entire length of the fourth quarter in the great enemies brawl in northern Michigan. After a free throw from Escanaba senior Erik Victorson, the Orioles passed the ball to freshman David Shillinger to end the game on a 3-pointer try.

Defending such a shot was nothing new to Escanaba, however. Boyne City’s Jack Near missed a winning triple against EHS against Summer on Tuesday, and Escanaba advanced to Thursday’s game.

But Shillinger was also comfortable taking a shot like this to force overtime – and he proved he could do it with a game of 35 and eight seconds last Saturday to give Ludington a district final win over Cadillac.

“I was hoping he’d pull it out again, but the shot didn’t go off” Ludington sophomore Levi Laman said. “I definitely trusted him with this shot.”

Ludington got the rebound, but a desperate pass back to Shillinger sailed far and out of bounds. From there, Tracy Hudson could only hold his team back from premature celebration when Escanaba hit the ball 0.05 seconds ahead of the clock. The game was essentially over.

Escanaba players jumped off the bench and rallied in midfield for the regional cup. It was 61 years of history.

“It’s been a while and I’ve trained against Thad (Shank) a few times.” Said Tracy Hudson. “We felt like we had a shot. The district was very difficult to leave. We felt we had a chance in the region. It was our goal to get this championship game and we basically won two nail bites. “

Hudson said it had been a little more comfortable going over the bridge to Traverse City since the last game in mid-February.

Due to an official conflict, Escanaba left the city at 4 a.m. to face the Traverse City Central Trojans. With a tip from Ludington at 6 p.m. on Thursday, it left EHS at 11 a.m. – the time the game against TCC started.

“I think it gave us a lot of confidence. ‘Hello. We played in this gym. We were successful against a really good team. We can do it,'” Said Hudson. “And Ludington probably felt the same way.”

And another long journey is on the horizon. Escanaba (17-2) reaches the quarter-finals in Corunna and faces Bridgeport (16-2) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“We really wanted that” Said Tracy Hudson. “So I think we will play a lot more relaxed (the rest of the playoffs).”

Three UP boys schools have achieved the Sweet 16 in divisions 1-3. Marquette fell to Grand Blanc 85-58, but Iron Mountain defeated the then undefeated Oscoda 63-52 at Sault Ste. Marie Thursday too.

Between Escanaba’s rise to the Elite Eight and Iron Mountain’s return since making a state appearance in 2019, Victorson said that UP basketball teams are nothing to look past.

“We are real. We’re not kidding. “ Victorson said. “We will compete with the best. We’re going to get out of here and do our best. Don’t look over us. Don’t respect us Especially when we go into this game and play against these teams, we know that they have no respect for us. So we just have to come out and show them who we are. “

Shillinger led the Orioles and the game with 22 points. Peyton LaCombe, a junior, added 10 for Ludington. Escanaba’s top scorer was Brandon Frazer with 10 points. Connor Smale and Victorson each scored nine points.

Both teams shot well when they got the chance. Ludington was 15 for 35 off the field for 42.9 percent while Escanaba finished shooting 14-30 for 46.6 percent.

Ludington finished his season 13-6.

“It was a game where it was really difficult to score points in basketball,” he said. Ludington trainer Thad Shank said. “Escanaba is long and athletic and strong in every position and they got us to fight on the offensive end of the floor.”

Shank said all of the credit goes to Escanaba and that he would have likely thought the Orioles would win a regional title had he been told earlier Thursday that the Orioles would hold a 41-point team.

He said Ludington had seen teams of size, but none that used their size the way Escanaba did with the Hudson Brothers.

“You don’t take it for granted when you’re in a regional final.” Shank said. “We have a lot of young children so we look forward to the future of Ludington basketball, but at the same time you don’t want to assume that being here won’t be easy period. Very few schools do this.

“We knew there were only eight or nine days left, no matter how you slice it. We’re just a little sad that it ended tonight.”

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