Esko finds way vs. neighbor Cloquet


December 16, 2022

Dan Saletel

Cloquet's Kollin Bonneville cuts between Esko's Makoi Perich, left, and Sam Haugen on a drive to the basket Dec. 9.

Esko parlayed a strong defensive effort into a 72-55 early season win over Cloquet in Esko on Friday, Dec. 9.

"It's always a tough game against Cloquet, but it is fun to play your next-door neighbor," said Esko coach Derek Anderson.

The Eskomos slipped out to a nine-point halftime lead, but they had their hands full with the 'Jacks, who boasted the tough inside play of Marco Mayorga.

"Marco isn't a big guy height-wise, but he is crafty, has a lot of moves inside and he has a lot of swag," said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia. "He plays a ton of basketball all summer and has developed a lot of great moves."

Esko's Koi Perich spent much of the first half on the bench due to fouls and that seemed to disrupt the Eskomos' offense.

"He came out in that second half and we got some steals and that got the offense going," Anderson said.

While Mayorga led Cloquet with 20 points, Perich paced the Eskomos with 29 and

Cuinn Berger added 17.

"Perich is just a big difference-maker and it is hard to get a matchup against him," Battaglia said. "You just can't scheme for him because of his athleticism."

Cloquet was missing Reese Sheldon, who was at an all-star football game and would have been used as one of the players to slow down Perich, the coach said.

"But that's a tough task because Perich is just a great athlete," Battaglia said.

A big part of Esko's success was the tough inside play of Braedyn Male, who recorded 11 points and helped on the boards.

"Even though we were up by nine points at halftime, we were sloppy with the ball," Anderson said. "I thought Cloquet did a good job of handling our full-court press in that half."

Transition baskets came easier in the second half. Rounding out Esko's scoring were Carter Zezulka, Sam Haugen and Dalton Spindler with four points each, and Zander Gabel with three points.

Dan Saletel

Esko's Cuinn Berger tries to steal the ball from Cloquet 's Kollin Bonneville during the Dec. 9 game between the Eskomos and the Lumberjacks in Esko. The home team notched a 72-55 win.

"We have high expectations with this team," Anderson said. "We feel we fell short last season and we'd like to get there again and show what we can do." Esko lost in the section championship last March.

Kollin Bonneville joined Mayorga atop the scoring for Cloquet with 14 points, while seven each went to Joe Bailey and Jack Battaglia. Malachi Bridge finished with five and Seth Rothamel added two.

"Overall I am happy with how we played," Battaglia said. "We just got done playing the toughest three teams on our schedule and we've learned a lot about our team. Now, it is about getting better and improving every game."

The Lumberjacks will host the Wood City Classic Basketball Tournament on Dec. 27-28 in Cloquet.


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