Top-seed Esko proves its mettle


March 15, 2024

Dave Harwig

Esko's Braedyn Male shoots over Marshall School's Brooks Johnson during Saturday's Section 7AA quarterfinal game in Hermantown. Esko cruised to a win.

The No. 1 seeded Esko boys basketball team continues to cruise through the Section 7AA playoffs following an 84-47 victory over No. 8 seed Duluth Marshall Saturday at Hermantown High School.

Esko struck fast and furiously and used a pressure defense to slow down and frustrate the Hilltoppers top scorer Brooks Johnson, as Esko ran out to a 41-22 lead at halftime of the quarterfinal.

"I told the guys not to overlook anyone in the playoffs; we have done that before and it cost us," said Esko head coach Derek Anderson. "At times, we can play as good as anyone, but at times we (don't) play to our potential."

Esko used a balanced scoring attack as Koi Perich scored 10 points in the first half to lead Esko, while Sam Haugen and Brayden Male each added 8 points in the half.

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"We played very unselfishly today," Coach Anderson said. "Sometimes, we were a little too unselfish, maybe making one or two passes too many, but it was great to see."

Esko held Johnson to 13 points in the first half, while the rest of his team managed only nine points. Johnson did come alive in the second half, scoring 29 points with most of those coming when the game was out of reach.

Haugen ended up leading Esko with 21 points, while Perich added 15 points. Dalton Spindler and Male each finished with 11 points.

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Esko connected on 14 3-pointers in the game, including five from Haugen, while Zander Gabel and Jacob Randa both finished with two long range bombs.

Dave Harwig

Esko's Sam Haugen scores a layup during Saturday's section 7AA quarterfinal win over Marshall School.

With the win, Esko improved to 19-8 on the season.

Esko continued its winning ways Wednesday, March 13, defeating Moose Lake/Willow River 89-65 in the Section 7AA semifinals.

Esko will play for the Section 7AA championship and a trip to State at 6 p.m. Friday, March 15 at UMD's Romano Gymnasium.


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