Trapp, Eskomos deny injury-prone Lumberjacks
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ESKO – Living just blocks away from Esko High School, 6-foot-9 junior Savanna Trapp spends a lot of time in the gymnasium. It’s there that the 17-year-old center has come into her own, beneath the basket, in the paint.
Likely the tallest-ever girls basketball player in Minnesota, Trapp has made a living blocking her opponents’ shots night after night. In her latest game, Esko’s superstar swatted away nine Cloquet attempts en route to leading the Eskomos to a 61-25 victory over the neighboring Lumberjacks Monday evening in Esko.
“Coaches always tell me, the paint is mine,” said Trapp, just one block away from a triple-double, along with her game-best 16 points and 13 rebounds Monday.
“I love it down there. It’s my house.”
Trapp set a state record last winter when she denied an all-time best 205 shots in a season’s time. As she continues to rack up the deflections, Trapp said her shot-blocking ability comes from more than just her freakish height.
“I have a good height advantage, but I work on my strength, conditioning and timing at practice, too,” she said, noting jumping rope improves her vertical while she pins shots against the backboard almost daily. “Blocking shots is almost as good as scoring, because the ball isn’t going in if it gets blocked.”
All of Trapp’s nine blocks came in the first half facing Cloquet Monday, as her string of swats guided the Eskomos on a pair of 12- and 13-point scoring runs. Esko led 38-10 by halftime.
“She altered a couple more in the second half, too,” Esko Coach Scott Antonutti said. “Our opponents’ shooting percentages aren’t real high, I know that.”
The fourth-year Eskomos coach went on to elaborate how Trapp has improved her strength, mobility and touch around the basket in a year’s time.
But let’s be honest, she is tall.
“I don’t know if she’s the tallest player ever [in Minnesota girls basketball],”
Antonutti said, “but she’s an eraser.”
“Like I’ve said before, she’s a game-changer,” Esko junior point guard and classmate Marisa Shady said. “With her arms up in the air, it’s like trying to shoot over 9½ feet. It’s nearly impossible.”
Noting she has to play around officiating and foul trouble at times, Trapp said knocking away shots gets her and her teammates cranked up every time.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It gets us going, for sure.”
“I’ve even blocked eight shots in the last three games, or something like that,” said the 5-foot-7 Shady, laughing. “I must have picked something up from [Savanna].”
Trapp’s younger sister, Molly, stands nearly 6-foot-4. Sure, it’s five inches below her elder, but the 14-year-old Molly still skies over her junior varsity competition.
“I’m not as tall as [Savanna] is, but I’m still the tallest when I play in games, just like her,” Molly said Monday. “We’ve always been taller than everyone else.”
Molly, a freshman, said she and her sister have grown up around basketball. It’s been over that time, the pair of giants learned to love shot-blocking.
“It’s really fun to just block it and grab the ball,” said Molly, a varsity reserve for the Eskomos. “Savanna and I have always gone to open gyms and challenged each other. We’re different players, but we’re very close. I love watching her play.”
Behind the older Trapp, the fourth state-ranked Eskomos (15-1) have compiled an impressive mark entering February. Having won seven straight games since their lone loss to No. 3 Braham Jan. 3, Esko has been keeping things simple.
“We have a target on our back as the team to beat up here,” Savanna Trapp said. “We have to remain focused. Every game just gets us ready for the sections.”
Although Antonutti said those games will surely get tougher down the road, he’s certain his depth-laden Eskomos will be up for the challenges.
“I’m playing about eight girls each night, but our ninth and 10th girls are pretty good, too,” Antonutti said, noting 10 of his players scored Monday. “We have girls who can shoot, girls who can run and then Savanna coming down the middle. We’re taking care of the ball and I think the girls know their roles. I like our chemistry, too. We’re just chugging along.”
The same can’t be said for Cloquet.
The Lumberjacks (6-13) lost their last four games after a severe hit from the injury bug. Senior Shania Paulson (stress fracture in foot) and sophomore Gracie Sinisalo (wrist/thumb) were sidelined lately and are questionable to return. Senior Amy Campbell and junior Krista Schmitz also both went down with a season-ending torn ACL injuries last week against Hibbing.
Facing Esko, senior Carri Zeadow and junior Kenzie Rathe both battled sickness, too.
“It’s been frustrating,” fourth-year Cloquet Coach Jeff Ojanen said at Tuesday’s practice, while searching for enough kids to play for his freshman squad, too. “It’s been a difficult three weeks, especially finding girls to play, but the girls are remaining positive. It’s been disappointing and I feel bad for the girls who can’t play, but some girls are really getting the opportunity to step up for us.”
Sophomore Sammy Zeadow did just that against the Eskomos. Normally a junior varsity guard, Zeadow scored a team-best seven points Monday, while Rathe and fellow junior forward Avery Bieri tallied five each in the lopsided defeat.
“We went right at [Trapp] and said we weren’t going to be afraid of her,” Ojanen said. “Right now, though, we just have to continue moving along. We have to find a way to get through this and, hopefully, come playoff time, our girls will be back. But when it rains, it pours.”