Prep girls basketball playoff preview: Trapp, Esko aim for new heightsEsko’s master plan in blocking opposing teams’ path to the girls basketball state tournament might revolve around Savanna Trapp blocking shots.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
Esko’s master plan in blocking opposing teams’ path to the girls basketball state tournament might revolve around Savanna Trapp blocking shots.
While the 6-foot-8 sophomore center continues to develop her offensive game, there’s no question she alters foes’ game plans by swatting away shot after shot in the lane.
“She’s most noticeable on the defensive end; she’s awful disruptive on the defensive end, but she scores points, too,” Esko coach Scott Antonutti said. “If people aren’t prepared for her, she can do a lot of damage on both ends.”
Trapp, believed to be the tallest current player in the state and perhaps of all time, is on the verge of setting the Minnesota State High School League record for blocked shots in a season. She has 182, five shy of 1993 Minneapolis Patrick Henry graduate Tracy Henderson’s mark, and that could fall Wednesday as Esko opens the Section 7AA playoffs against Moose Lake-Willow River.
“It’s really fun to block shots, and the crowd really gets into it,” said Trapp, who also averages 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. “That’s my job since I’m tall.”
The Eskomos (23-3) hope to return to the section title game, where they lost to eventual Class AA runners-up Braham last year. The top-ranked Bombers (24-2), who handled Esko 83-46 in the regular season, are again the favorite with sophomore Rebekah Dahlman and her 2,600-plus career points leading the way.
With players such as Keely Deadrick (20.1 ppg), Lydia Pelletier, Alyson Glumac and Trapp, the Eskomos rolled through the Polar League unbeaten and earned the second seed behind Braham.
Esko held 15 opponents to fewer than 40 points, thanks in part to Trapp’s inside presence. That forces teams to work the perimeter, where Esko’s athleticism usually prevails.
Trapp has worked hard to gain upper-body strength — she still gets pushed around by players with a much lower center of gravity — and is on many major Division I colleges’ recruiting list, including those in the Big Ten.
“I’m working on conditioning, lifting and getting stronger,” she said. “I’ve just been working on my overall game because as every player improves, it improves the team. I’ve definitely gotten stronger since my freshman year.”
Polar League teams vie for state
Barnum lost its stranglehold on the Polar League with a 17-point defeat at Esko, but the defending state champions are still a good bet to defend their Section 5A title.
The Bombers received the No. 1 seed in the East Subsection, but the toughest competition should come from the West as Upsala (22-1), Pine River-Backus (23-3) and Sebeka (19-6) all could make a run.
Jessica Newman, a Minnesota Duluth signee and the Polar League player of the year, and Katie Myhre played sidekick roles to their older sisters in the Bombers’ state-title run a year ago, but are legitimate stars in their own right.
The Bombers (23-3) host Onamia on Thursday night as coach Randy Myhre seeks to join New London-Spicer’s Mike Dreier and Rochester Lourdes’ Myron Glass as the only girls coaches in state history with 600 career victories.
# The Polar League’s depth is evident as Cook County and Floodwood received the top two seeds in Section 7A Subsection 1. Both teams lost in the semifinals in 2010 but return key players.
The Vikings are led by veterans Ashley Deschampe (17.3 ppg) and Brea Boomer (16.6), and the Polar Bears are paced by all-around star Alissa Autio (17.4 ppg, 5.3 steals per game).
Orr (20-1), in its final season before combining with Cook, earned the top spot in Subsection 2. But the Braves face a stiff test in No. 2 Mountain Iron-Buhl (22-3) and No. 3 Cook (19-3), each of which possesses 2,000-point career scorers in Charlotte Overbye and Emily Youngstrom, respectively.
East struggling to get healthy
Duluth East enters the Section 7AAAA playoffs as the top seed in its quest for its first state tournament berth since Erika Quigley and Natalie Rickert wore the scarlet and gray nearly a decade ago.
This year’s Greyhounds are buoyed by a deep bench, which turned out to be beneficial after all the injuries they suffered late in the season. East (17-8) has used 10 different starters, and coach Bill Kunze is hoping to have most of his hobbled players, including reserves Nicole Roseth and Jamie Whitlinger, back for the quarterfinal round.
“She’s like a waterbug, a scrapper out there; she’s not afraid to get into the action,” Kunze said of Whitlinger. “She’s been a nice spark plug on the defense.”
Alex Freeman and Macie Dorow lead the offense, while 6-foot-3 Elena Lushine is a factor in the middle.
Eighth-seeded Duluth Central (9-17), with sharpshooting Mary VonRueden and Leah Hamm, might get one more chance at East if the Trojans win their opening-round game against Anoka tonight. But considering the Trojans have lost 23 straight in the series over the past decade, this might be one slipper too big for Cinderella.
Three-team race in 7AAA
What Section 7AAA is missing in numbers — only five teams make up the section — it makes up for in competitiveness.
Grand Rapids (18-8), Hermantown (16-9) and Hibbing (16-9) only have to win two games to reach the state tournament, but the tough part is getting past each other.
The top-seeded Thunderhawks, led by state tournament veterans Jessi Corrick and Kelly Niles, swept the Hawks and split with the Bluejackets. A balanced Hermantown team doesn’t have anyone averaging more than 13 points a game, but still swept Hibbing in two meetings.
Defending champion Bemidji’s chances of repeating took a huge hit in the offseason when Minnesota recruit Kayla Hirt suffered a season-ending knee injury, and the Lumberjacks slumped to a 6-16 record.
News Tribune prep rankings
Girls basketball (FINAL)
(enrollment over 500)
1. Superior 15-6
2. Grand Rapids 18-8
3. Duluth East 17-8
4. Hermantown 16-9
5. Ashland 15-4
(enrollment under 500)
1. Esko 23-3
2. Barnum 23-3
3. Floodwood 21-4
4. Cook County 18-3
5. Mountain Iron-Buhl 22-3