Clash of the Polar League titansEsko earns Polar League title with 58-54 win over Barnum in Barnum last Thursday, Feb. 16.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Marisa Shady admitted she didn’t even know the score of the game when she hit the biggest shot of the evening against rival Barnum last week. Rather, she was focused on what she’s done a thousand times
The Esko junior point guard’s baseline three-pointer with 90 seconds to play helped lift the Eskomos past the Bombers 58-54 in a Polar League thriller before a sellout crowd in Barnum.
“At that time, it was just me, the ball and the basket,” said the 5-foot-7 Shady, who’s only made field goal broke a 52-52 tie and gave Esko a lead they never lost. “I said, ‘It’s going in,’ and fortunately, it went in.”
Shady’s trifecta, along with 6-foot-9 center Savanna Trapp’s late field goal and free throw in waning moments, allowed the fourth-ranked Eskomos (22-2) to secure a share of the Polar League championship for a second straight season.
Esko can capture the outright title with a win against Cromwell-Wright Thursday.
“She’s a gamer,” said Esko Coach Scott Antonutti of Shady. “Late in a game, we want the ball in her hands. Those shots are what win you games.”
Before Shady’s late heroics, the Bombers (20-5) darted to a quick 20-8 lead in the early going. Without height to contain Trapp inside, Barnum relied on their shooting ability from outside. For the game, Barnum hit 11 shots behind the arc to Esko’s six.
Barnum’s Katie Myhre and Caitlan Rodgers both hit a pair of three-pointers, while Claire Rodgers and Claudia Turner each added one
before the Eskomos could develop Trapp, who scored a game-best
“We knew we were going to have to do it from behind the arc,” Barnum Coach Randy Myhre said. “With [Trapp’s] length, we just couldn’t finish at the rim.”
“Barnum teams have always been able to hit three’s,” added Antonutti. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for the way they can shoot the ball.”
The Bombers took a 31-27 advantage into halftime, before a trio of consecutive buckets by Trapp drew Esko closer early in the second half.
Keyed by a 12-3 run on pivotal three-pointers by Stephanie Miller and Kallyn Knutson, the Eskomos gained their first lead of the night at 47-44 with roughly seven minutes remaining. Both Miller and Knutson finished with nine points each.
Barnum regained the lead at 52-50 later on, but a basket inside by Trapp knotted the game at 52-52 and Shady then took over in crunch time.
“Fortunately our girls hit some shots,” Antonutti said. “But that one could have gone either way. We respect Barnum. I sure wouldn’t count them out.”
Last week’s defeat snapped a previous three-game win streak for the Bombers. Katie Myhre led the scoring attack with 16 points, while twin sisters Claire and Caitlan Rodgers followed with 14 and 12 points,
“We were right in the game until the very end,” Coach Myhre said. “A couple of more bounces and we could have been on top. We left [Shady] open, but you have to give her credit. She’s a very good player and hit a very big shot.”
According to Myhre, 6-foot sophomore center Daron Mainville will be reactivated Friday and available to participate when the Section 7A postseason begins next week. That said, Myhre likes the team’s chances, despite a deep playoff field.
“We’re dangerous without [Daron],” Myhre said. “But with her back, we’re going to be really, really, really dangerous. It’s going to be a battle, but if we were some of those other schools, I don’t know if I’d want to play us. Hopefully we’ll be in it until the end.”
As the Bombers have been idle since last Thursday, the Eskomos have remained busy. Although they won at Eveleth-Gilbert Monday, Esko lost just their second game, falling 41-28 in a sluggish effort at Crosby-Ironton Saturday afternoon.
“We haven’t talked about that one much,” said Knutson, a 5-foot-5 junior guard. “Beating Barnum was a fun win for us, but Saturday, we didn’t come to play. I think we were all a little bit drained. We didn’t take anything away from it at all.”
Scoring a season-low 28 points, Esko was completely out of sync.
“It was pretty bad,” said 5-foot-8 junior forward Brooke Schramm. “I think every team has a bad game throughout the year. And that was just ours.”
“I think everyone would like to have that one back,” added Antonutti. “I can’t put my thumb on it exactly, but any time you lose, it makes you
re-evaluate things and make some adjustments. I think we’ll be focused come playoff time.”
A favorite to challenge third-ranked Braham for the Section 7AA championship for a third year in a row, Esko players are confident, but realistic.
“I think we have a lot of opportunities ahead of us, but we have to continue to work hard,” Knutson said. “We saw what happened at Crosby, so it’s just one game at a time.”
Or as Shady does it, one big shot at a time.