No. 5 Esko girls remains unbeaten behind deep rosterEleven players scored for the unbeaten Eskomos when they pounded the visiting Bulldogs 72-25 Monday evening in a Polar League girls basketball engagement at Esko’s Lincoln High School.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ESKO – Reading Monday night’s game program, one might think the Esko girls basketball team’s only option to score on rival Carlton would come from 6-foot-8 superstar center Savanna Trapp.
But add 10 others.
Eleven players scored for the unbeaten Eskomos when they pounded the visiting Bulldogs 72-25 Monday evening in a Polar League girls basketball engagement at Esko’s Lincoln High School.
Esko Coach Scott Antonutti said talented athletes aren’t short on his lineup card, noting he has a number of state soccer, volleyball, cross country and track participants up and down. With the heavily recruited Trapp as their obvious lynchpin added to their athletic depth, No. 5 state-ranked Esko has won all eight of their games thus far.
“Savanna is a big piece for us, but the rest of our girls are too,” said Antonutti, in his fourth year with the Eskomos. “Having Savanna obviously causes matchup problems, but I’ve been most impressed with these girls’ chemistry together.”
Forwards Stephanie Bandelin, Megan Reuer and Brooke Schramm share the floor with Trapp, while guards Marisa Shady, Kallyn Knutson, Bailey Mudek and Steph Miller all see significant time as well. And Esko has a bench, too.
“Savanna is really like our ‘get out of jail free’ card,” said Shady, a junior. “But we’re so diverse. We can go big and tall, or short and fast. And if any of us get in foul trouble, we have girls who come in right off the bench and we don’t miss a step.”
Monday, Esko (8-0) never missed a step. Scoring 13 of the game’s first 15 points, they darted to a 31-point, 42-11 halftime lead against the frustrated Bulldogs and never looked back. With their normal pesky defense leading to their high-octane offense, Esko was guided by Trapp, who led all scorers with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots in a typical night for one who changes the dynamics of the girls sport.
“She’s a game changer,” said Shady of Trapp, who has averaged around 18 points, eight rebounds and five blocks per night. “If we’re ever in trouble, we know we can just toss it up to her and she’s got our back.”
According to Minnesota high school basketball records, Trapp has 407 blocks on her career and is ranked 12th all-time in Minnesota. Last year alone, the towering center blocked a state all-time single season-best 205 shots. Although just a junior this year, Antonutti said Trapp is nearing the 900-point plateau and will likely break 1,000 this season come late January or early February.
“I sure wouldn’t want to defend her at all!” said Schramm, a junior, laughing. “I don’t know even know how teams practice for that.”
But Trapp is the first to say it’s not all about her.
“It’s not just me out there, it’s our whole team,” she said. “We’re all equally important and play our roles. It takes five people constantly contributing all of the time for a team to be successful.”
That’s worked so far. This season, Esko has nearly averaged 60 points per game, while allowing just over a mere 30 points in wins over Pine City, Hibbing, Grand Rapids, Silver Bay, Cook County, Warroad, Hermantown and Carlton. They defended their Esko Coaches Classic title last weekend as well, behind another balanced effort.
“I mean, yeah, Savanna is 6-8, why wouldn’t we use her? She’s a big advantage,” Schramm said, chuckling again, “but there’s so much more to us. We have some amazing players, where if we’re tired, someone can go in and we don’t miss a beat. That’s nice.”
Esko’s biggest test will come after the holidays, when they welcome defending Class AA state champion Braham on Jan. 3 in a rematch of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Section 7AA championship contests, which the Bombers won.
Perhaps the third time will be a charm.
“That game is a huge challenge and we hope that we can give them a better run this time,” Antonutti said, “but right now, we’re playing well. I couldn’t be much more pleased with what these girls have done. As coach, I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
Carlton (3-3), meanwhile, continues its up-and-down season.
Bulldogs Coach Lisa Johnson agreed the Eskomos have been the only team this winter who simply overmatched her girls.
“We couldn’t stop [Savanna],” Johnson said. “I mean, she’s basically standing up and touching the net. Our girls looked very short next to her. She can do everything.”
Struggling to match Trapp’s height, Carlton’s presence near the rim was non-existent – as it is for most teams – on Monday. Lindsey Dahl-Holm and Clarissa Nelson scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, for a team that has beaten Duluth Marshall, McGregor and Onamia. Carlton mixed in disappointing losses to Chisholm, Two Harbors and the Eskomos.
“I think we’ve done well so far, but there is always room for improvement,” Johnson continued. “We just have to work hard and continue getting better at practice. Good teams show your weaknesses and we were frustrated tonight. But I’m confident we’ll improve.”