7AA girls playoffs: Esko clipped by Proctor


March 8, 2024

Dan Saletel

Esko's Kyra Johnson looks for an open pass as the Esko girls take on the Proctor Rails during Saturday's quarterfinals at Denfeld.

The 7AA girls basketball season came to an end for local teams last week as Esko, Barnum and Moose Lake / Willow River bowed out of the tournament.

Trailing 53-52, Esko had a chance to advance to the semifinals but was unable to capitalize, then a late foul gave the Rails the 3-point win Saturday at Duluth Denfeld.

"We had the ball trailing by one point as time was fading down," Esko head coach Sue Northey said. "We wanted the opportunity to come away with the victory, but it didn't happen."

And with that missed chance, the Esko girls fell in the section 7AA quarterfinals by a score of 55-52 to Proctor.

Proctor is the No. 4 seed in the section 7AA Playoffs and Esko the fifth; they play in arguably the toughest section in the state.

"It was a tough loss for the girls, who were coming off their best game of the season with an amazing defensive effort against International Falls," said Northey of the 92-32 win Thursday, which saw her five starters all in double digits in the first half.

Esko would find themselves trailing by 10 points twice in the game Saturday, but each time they battled back and never quit.

"This group of girls improved so much from the start of the season," Northey said. "Game in and game out, they continued to grow as a team, and the girls all played so well and they really appreciated all their teammates and shared in their successes."

Proctor's Chole Carlson hit three 3-pointers in the first half as the Rails built up a 31-25 lead at halftime. Esko used balanced scoring in the first half. Hannah Swanson, Kyra Johnson and Cairin Berger all scored 6 points for Esko in the first.

Esko came out and battled hard in the second half, outscoring Proctor 27-23, but it wasn't enough for the win. Esko, which connected on one 3-point basket in the first half, nailed four in the second half as Swanson hit two long-range bombs. She and Johnson led Esko with 14 points each in the loss.

"This was such a great group of girls," Northey added, "It was a hard pill to take on Saturday after the loss, but the senior group has come so far this year. I am so proud of them. Life has so many ups and downs, and the loss was a disappointment, but they will rebound and go on to great things in their future."

The loss ended the season for Esko with a record of 18-9 on the season overall. The team will graduate Kaelyn Foxx, Hannah Swanson, Kallie Sinnott, Kyra Johnson, Erin Pettyjohn and Cadence Berger.

Dan Saletel

Esko's Cairin Berger makes a drive to the basket during Saturday's quarterfinal matchup against Proctor in Duluth. Esko lost 55-52.

Bombers, Rebels fall

Barnum, the No. 10 seed in the 7AA playoffs, traveled to Hinckley to face the Jaguars of Hinckley-Finlayson, losing 61-38.

The Hartl sisters proved too much to handle, as they scored 42 of the 61 points in the victory. The Jaguars led at halftime 36-17 and cruised to the victory. The Bombers season ended with a 12-15 record.

The Rebels also played on the road last Thursday, facing Mesabi East in Aurora losing 58-19.

The Giants started fast and never looked back as Mesabi East built up a 41-8 lead at the break. The Rebels struggled offensively to get things going against a much taller and more aggressive squad on the defensive side of the ball. Piper Nielsen led the Rebels with 5 points on the night. The Rebels closed out their season with a 10-17 record.


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