BOYS AND GIRLS BASKETBALL: Esko Coaches Classic starts Friday
The Esko girls basketball team is a successful one, but every year at the Coaches Classic they have the perfect recipe.
In perfect holiday tradition, the Eskomos pile into Coach Scott Antonutti’s home for a morning of gifts, games and a piece (or two) of his wife Julie’s breakfast dish.
Esko will look to dish out the victories at this weekend’s annual eight-team girls and boys tournament when hosting Class A’s fifth-ranked North Woods at 4:15 p.m. Friday, followed by Saturday’s consolation or championship rounds.
A round of egg bake will first be served — in at least two pans — as secret Santa presents and games cap a memory-lasting morning of more than basketball for the team.
“It’s a day that I love and I know the girls like it, too,” said Coach Antonutti. “It’s a morning that they remember.”
Kailee Katt, a senior forward for the well-balanced Eskomos (3-1), remembers the first time she ate the egg bake.
“It’s to die for,” said Katt.
The Eskomos are going to have to play their best game of the season if they want to keep up with the unbeaten Grizzlies and Northern Michigan recruit Darby Youngstrom — above 2,000 career points — plus Destiny Villebrun, topping 1,000.
“They’re solid,” said Antonutti, whose Eskomos edged North Woods 59-48 last year, winning their third straight title.
Hinckley-Finlayson and Hermantown, also in the girls bracket, begin the event that tips off at 2:45 p.m. each day.
As day turns to night, Class AA’s top-ranked Esko (7-1) boys team begins tournament action at 7:15 p.m. against 4-0 Northwestern, Wis. The Eskomos claimed the crown last year with a 59-42 win over International Falls, who is back again this year along with Hinckley-
Coach Mike Devney, in his 15th season, said the previously 16-team tournament has shrunk over the years, but he expects there to be nice crowds coming over the two days.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Devney, whose team has won six straight. “Hopefully we get a couple of wins.”
“It’s been going on for some 30 years,” added senior Kory Deadrick, Esko’s top scorer who shot hoops with his cousins Sunday after family Christmas. “It’s an honor to play in it.”
As is eating some of Julie Antonutti’s perfect egg bake.
“My wife is a fantastic cook,” Antonutti added.
Esko Coaches Classic Schedule
Fri. Dec. 27 2:45 p.m.
Hinckley-Finlayson vs. Hermantown (Girls) 4:15 p.m.
Esko vs. North Woods (Girls) 5:45 p.m.
Hinckley-Finlayson vs. International Falls (Boys) 7:15 p.m.
Northwestern vs. Esko (Boys)
Sat. Dec. 28 2:45 p.m.
Consolation Finals 4:15 p.m.
Winners, Girls Finals 5:45 p.m.
Consolation Finals 7:15 p.m.
Winners, Boys Finals
AREA HOLIDAY PLAY PREVIEWS:
Adding to the holiday hoopla of games are a host of area teams, including the unbeaten Fond du Lac Ojibwe boys — the state’s highest scoring team in all four classes.
Class A’s 6-0 Ogichidaa — with 34 enrolled students grades 9-12 — are averaging a dizzying 105.2 points per game entering this weekend’s three-day Crosby-Ironton Invitational along with local foe Moose Lake-Willow River on Thursday night.
Fellow Polar Leaguers Barnum, Cromwell-Wright, South Ridge and Wrenshall are not in holiday tournament play; however, they do have games scheduled. The Wrens have the longest break, not playing for 15 straight days, until Jan. 3.
Carlton carded its first victory last weekend in St. Joseph, Minn., narrowly slipping by St. Cloud Christian 68-62.
Collegiately, the FDLTCC men and women play in the Mesabi Range tournament in Virginia following the New Year’s holiday.
In prep girls, Cromwell-Wright, Fond du Lac Ojibwe and Wrenshall are off for the holidays until Dec. 30 or later.
Coming all on Friday and Saturday, Barnum will bus up the North Shore for the Two Harbors tourney, as Moose Lake-Willow River plays two-plus hours south in Jordan, Minn. And closer to home, Carlton and South Ridge could play in the Proctor Invitational’s championship or consolation round Saturday, depending on the action Friday evening.