Esko denied by Pequot again


March 22, 2024

Dave Harwig

Esko senior Isaak Sertich consoles fellow senior Jake Randa after Esko lost Friday night's section 7AA championship game to Pequot Lakes 55-42.

The Esko boys basketball team met its Achilles' heel in the Section 7AA championship Friday, falling to Pequot Lakes, 55-42, at Romano Gym on the campus of the University of

Minnesota Duluth.

It was the fourth year in a row Esko met Pequot Lakes in the playoffs, and the fourth year the Patriots came out on top.

Esko found itself in a big hole early, falling behind 14-0 after a sluggish start.

"We just didn't come out ready," said Esko coach Derek Anderson. "I didn't expect that to happen. There was no sense of urgency, and we just weren't doing all the things we had talked about prior to the game."

Esko chipped away and managed to cut the lead to 24-19 by the half. To its credit, Esko eventually tied the game at 32.

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"We did have a chance to take the lead, but then we had an untimely turnover and it just seemed like it was an uphill battle all night long," Anderson said. "At halftime, I told them they did a good job of responding to falling behind early, but we could never get the lead and it was just a struggle the entire game."

Adding insult to injury was the fact that Esko fell for the third straight year in the section title game.

"They played a solid game," Anderson said of Pequot Lakes. "It was more of the fact that we thought we would come out stronger in the game than what they were able to do to us."

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The Patriots were led by Brayden Spiczka with 14 points. Ethan Quale added 11 points and Blake Spiczka recorded 10 points.

Esko was led by Jacion Owens, who scored 13 points and was the only Esko player in double-digit scoring. Also scoring for Esko were Dalton Spindler with 9 points, Sam Haugen with 8, Gabel Zander with 5, Braedyn Male with 4 and Koi Perich with 3 points.

"We had our goals and it is disappointing right now that we didn't get to where we wanted to go," Anderson said.

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Esko will graduate eight seniors from this year's team, which went 20-9.

Rebels fall to Esko

Esko made the championship game with an 89-65 win over Moose Lake/Willow River in the semifinal game March 13.

"We stressed the importance of getting back on defense quickly in practice leading up to the game, but we did not execute that game plan as Esko was beating us down the floor and playing us 5 on 3," said Rebels coach Paul Dewey. "We were able to keep the game close for much of the first half, then they made four straight 3s to open up a 13-point lead at the half."

Male led Esko with 19 points while Owens added 14. Spindler scored 12, and Perich recorded 11 points.

Dave Harwig

Esko senior Joey Antonutti leads a loud Esko student section Friday at Romano Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.

The Rebels had two players in double-digit scoring with Adam Neumann finishing with 18 points while Eli Youngs added 16 points.

ML/WR finished the season with a record of 21-8.


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