Esko boys dominate the competition
January 5, 2024
"Overall, it was a good and fun tournament," said Esko coach Derek Anderson. "The Sports Alliance does a really good job of putting on a good tournament for all the teams."
Esko's run to the championship started with an opening round 93-39 blowout of Hinckley-
"We actually came out a little flat in that first game," Anderson said. "In that first half we just didn't execute the way we can, but in the second half we responded and played much better."
Despite leading 56-24 at the intermission break, Anderson felt Esko had too many turnovers and that they could have done better in handling defensive rotations.
Koi Perich led Esko with 29 points while Sam Haugen and Dalton Spindler were also in double-digit scoring with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Also scoring for Esko were Braedyn Male and Zander Gabel with 9 points each and Jackson Peterson with 8 points. Also scoring were Finn Furcht (5), Jacion Owens (4) and Jake Randa and Ryan Sturm (2 each).
Esko completed the championship on Wednesday with a 110-53 drubbing of Duluth Marshall as Perich again led his team with 35 points.
"We shot well and got off to a very good start," said Anderson. "We did a pretty good job of defending their best player, Brooks Johnson, and we got a lot of steals and points off transition."
Despite facing a double team most of the game, Johnson - a 6-foot-3 junior - was still able to record 23 points for the Hilltoppers. However, Esko's depth, speed and athleticism proved to be too much as they sprinted to a 62-33 halftime lead, which allowed Anderson to empty his bench.
"It was nice because we were able to get a lot of playing time for guys that normally don't get as much time on the floor," Anderson said.
In all, Esko had 10 players score in the game. Joining Perich in double-digit scoring were Spindler with 19, Haugen with 17 and Male with 12 points. Randa, Peterson and Furcht each contributed 6 points. Sturm and Isaak Sertich scored 4 each and Gabel finished with 1 point.
The tournament was the 43rd annual Coaches Classic, and Esko continued its reign of dominance by winning its own tournament once again.
"Right before the holiday break we played Minneapolis North and we had a lot of self-inflicted mistakes," Anderson said. "In that opening game we were a bit sluggish at the start, but then we continually got better as the tournament went on."