Barnum, Esko stay alive as others end season
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
It’s a fact: the Barnum boys basketball team is smaller than many. But that wasn’t an issue Tuesday evening.
Using their harassing defense and efficient offense, the Bombers cruised past Royalton 69-53 in a Section 5A semifinal Tuesday in Mora.
“We were smaller again tonight,” Coach Newman said, “but that’s been the case all season. The boys really came out and played well. We kept the pressure on [Royalton] and didn’t let up.”
Barnum (24-5) darted to a 33-23 halftime lead on the Royals, and then methodically increased their advantage throughout the second half. Danny Warpula tallied 16 points for the Bombers, while Rich’s son, Brandon Newman, as well as Jake Naslund and Rodney Mullen Jr. scored 13, 12 and 12, respectively.
“Everyone contributed,” said Newman, whose Bombers have beaten Onamia and Hill City in the playoffs, too. “I thought this was probably our best defensive game all year.”
The win was the seventh straight for Barnum, which hasn’t lost in nearly a month entering Friday’s championship contest against seventh state-ranked Browerville (26-2) at 7 p.m. in Crosby, Minn.
“We’re going to be really outsized against Browerville; they’re big,” Newman said. “But the boys have been working towards this all year. They’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”
The Bombers are hoping to qualify for their first state tournament since 2007.
“That would be a dream come true,” said Naslund, a senior. “We’re playing well and mainly just having fun. We know [Browerville] is bigger than us, but every team is, really. We’re pretty pumped.”
Like the Bombers, Esko has marched through tournament play unscathed thus far.
The Eskomos (24-4) topped Pine City and Mora and enter Thursday’s Section 7AA semifinals against Deer River (25-3) at 6 p.m. at UMD. A potential win would place them in Saturday’s championship at 7 p.m. at UMD against defending champ Virginia or the state’s top-ranked Braham.
“We’re playing alright, but our defense isn’t where we want it to be,” said Esko senior Jackson Lindquist. “We have to tune things up, but if we play our game, I think we have a chance to make a run. I’d love to make it to state, but coming up, we’re going to have to play our best basketball.”
Esko has won 10 consecutive games and hasn’t lost since January, using their sharp-shooting and well-balanced scheme. But Coach Mike Devney said nowadays, anything can happen.
“It takes just one game to lose and be done,” he said. “I think we’re confident, but a lot of teams are playing well at this time of year. We’re going to have to tighten up defensively and rebound the ball. If we do that, I think we have as good a chance as anybody, but there are four really good teams left.”
Update: Minnesota Class AA: Esko to meet Braham in finals
Duluth News Tribune
Esko senior guard Jackson Lindquist just got done playing the game of his life on Thursday night when Eskomos coach Mike Devney approached him.
“You know, if you would have only made those free throws,” Devney said with a grin, “you would’ve had 40 points.”
Esko will settle for Lindquist’s 35, and in particular, his last two as the Eskomos held on for a 71-68 victory in the Section 7AA semifinals before about 700 spectators at Romano Gym.
Lindquist scored the winning basket in the closing seconds to make up for 8-for-13 free-throw shooting, including four misses in the second half.
“Jackson is a guy who wants the ball at the end,” Devney said of Lindquist, who had 32 points in a quarterfinal win on Saturday over Mora. “He was the Polar League MVP for a reason, and he just continues to get better and better. The kid is a basketball player.”
The win sets up a rematch as Esko (25-4) and Braham (28-1) meet in the 7AA playoffs for the third straight year, with the Bombers winning the previous two. Much has been made of Northeastern Minnesota basketball this season, with Anders Broman of Lakeview Christian Academy and Johnny Woodard of Duluth East leading the way, but the 7AA final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Romano Gym will pit two of the best in Lindquist and Braham guard Tyler Vaughan.
Lindquist drove the lane and got a shot past Deer River’s 6-foot-7 center, Noah Kaczor, with less than 30 seconds to play to put the Eskomos up 69-68. Then he made a steal on the other end, paving the way for teammate Casey Staniger to make two free throws with 11.3 remaining for the final margin.
Junior guard Henry Hellmann, who had a career-high 28 points to lead Deer River (25-4), launched a 3-pointer at the buzzer. His aim was on but the ball fell short.
“Deer River had some strong football kids who just took it to us,” Lindquist said. “They were very quick and able to draw fouls, and No. 3 (Hellmann) was hitting everything he threw up there. It was one of those games where anyone could win it at the end, so we were just fortunate to come out on top. I drove the lane and the only ones left were me and that big guy (Kaczor), but the ball went in. I kind of got lucky. I’m not going to lie.”
Anyone who watched Lindquist on Thursday knows there is a lot more to his game than luck. The 6-foot-2 guard made three 3-pointers — part of an Esko team that likes to spread the ball around the perimeter — and showed great touch whenever he drove the lane. He made 12 of 17 shots while adding three steals.
Hellmann was nearly as good, putting in a slick performance with slashing moves to the basket and a drop-step 3-pointer that’s basically impossible to defend.
Deer River is a school known for its football prowess but kept it close with a rugged style of play. The Warriors had 17 offensive rebounds, and after trailing most of the game they put a late scare into the Eskomos.
“Esko has a great team and gave us matchup problems, but we made it a game. We gave them a battle,” Deer River coach Chuck Isaacs said. “Our kids played their hearts out, but just came up a little short. It was an excellent season, one of the best we’ve ever had.”
Deer River 30-38—68
Deer River — Nick Schimek 3, Henry Hellmann 28, Damon Benham 11, August Marleau 7, Jackson Carter 1, Eythan Stangland 8, Noah Kaczor 10. Totals 27 7-17 68.
3-point goals — Schimek, Hellman 5, Marleau.
Esko — Jackson Lindquist 35, Marc Peterson 9, Casey Staniger 9, Kory Deadrick 12, Jared Harms 6. Totals 27 10-17 71.
3-point goals — Lindquist 3, Peterson, Staniger, Deadrick 2.
BRAHAM 77, VIRGINIA 72
The Blue Devils turned in a pesky performance but could never take control against Braham, which got 32 points from star guard Tyler Vaughan, including some clutch free throws at the end to clinch it.
Virginia (22-7) led 2-0 to start the contest but never led again. The Blue Devils were down 27-11 at one point in the first half but refused to go away with a balanced offensive attack led by Tyler Wilson’s 22 points.
Braham’s only loss this season was a 102-67 setback in the season opener to big school power Hopkins. The Bombers, who won three Class AA state titles from 2004-06, will be going for their seventh state tournament appearance on Saturday against Esko. The Eskomos, led by Lindquist, will be going for their third trip after appearances in 1955 and 2003.
“I don’t care about points,” Lindquist said. “Just giving ourselves a chance to make it to state — that’s all I care about.”
Braham — Anthony Bias 16, Shaun Hollenkamp 6, Sam Stigen 5, Cameron Braund 4, Tyler Vaughan 32, Zach Dahlman 11, Drew Klemz 3. Totals 25 19-29 77.
3-point goals — Bias 4, Hollenkamp 1, Vaughan 3.
Virginia — Joe Geiselman 6, Cade Stackpool 13, Tyler Wilson 22, Cole Skadsem 3, Sean Wilson 3, Patrick Jarvi 9, Jordan Lindholm 14, Ben Romsaas 2. Totals 27 9-12 72.
In other Carlton County boys basketball news, Moose Lake-Willow River (15-13), Cromwell-Wright (10-16) and Carlton (9-15) all won a game in their respective postseason runs, as the Rebels topped Aitkin, the Cardinals edged Wrenshall and the Bulldogs defeated Cherry before all three bowed out. Large-school entrant Cloquet (9-18), meanwhile, lost its postseason opener to Duluth Denfeld, while Wrenshall (1-22) was eliminated by Cromwell-Wright more than a we