Esko advances to Class AA boys basketball semifinalsKory Deadrick scored 30 points in Esko’s 60-54 victory over third-seeded Hayfield in a Minnesota Class AA high school boys basketball quarterfinal game on Wednesday. Esko (27-4) advances to play Litchfield (25-5)in Friday night’s semifinals at Target Center.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — Kory Deadrick knows his woeful shooting night in the Section 7AA final nearly cost Esko its first state tournament berth in 10 years.
So the junior forward made up for it Wednesday night at Williams Arena.
Deadrick scored 30 points and made five 3-point field goals in Esko’s 60-54 victory over third-seeded Hayfield in a Minnesota Class AA high school boys basketball quarterfinal game.
Esko (27-4) advances to play Litchfield (25-5), a 64-55 double-overtime winner over Redwood Valley, in Friday night’s semifinals at Target Center.
Deadrick, the first player in coach Mike Devney’s 19 seasons as a coach to average a double-double, was 1-for-10 in the 64-63 section final victory against Mora, that required a winning 3-point shot at the buzzer from freshman Jaxon Turner. Deadrick recovered to hit 8 of 13 shots from the field and score 25 points in the first half against the Hayfield Vikings (22-8).
“Obviously I didn’t have the best performance in the section final, so I wanted to come out here and prove myself for our team,” Deadrick said. “They look up to me to make some shots, so I wanted to step up for them.”
The game plan wasn’t necessarily to feed Deadrick the ball, but Hayfield wasn’t sticking closely to the 6-foot-6 swingman.
“We like to give it to whoever is hot, and he was hot,” junior guard Casey Staniger said. “We rode on his back in the first half and then in the second half everyone stepped up and started making plays.”
Esko trailed 22-19 before Deadrick canned a 3-point shot and then scored on a traditional three-point play to tie the game at 25. Deadrick hit two more 3-pointers as Esko closed the half on a 13-2 run.
“(Hayfield) was focused on Marc and Casey, so that gave him some opportunities,” Devney said. “He shot the 3 extremely well, with great arch on the shot. When he’s not hitting them, they’re a little flat. But tonight he was shooting rainbows.”
Deadrick hit two more field goals early in the second half as Esko upped its lead to as high as 11 before Hayfield made a run, in part because leading scorer Cole Kruger shadowed Deadrick’s every move in a defensive switch.
“I should have put Cole on him in the first half, but he had one foul so we waited,” Hayfield coach Chris Pack said.
Kruger, who averages 19 points per game, finished with 28 to lead Hayfield but it was his tight man-to-man coverage on Deadrick that helped change the momentum. The junior made a layup, a three-point play, a baseline drive for a hoop and three free throws to tie the game at 46 with 6:06 to play.
Staniger, who scored 15 points, broke the tie with a runner through the lane and hit a jump shot for a four-point lead. Staniger, however, missed two technical free throws before later nailing four in a row for a 57-49 advantage.
“There was a lot of pressure, and I don’t want to make an excuse but both my legs were cramping,” said Staniger, who entered the game shooting 79.3 percent from the line. “I’m usually the guy to go to for free throws, so that was pretty unlike me at the free-throw line.”
Devney wasn’t afraid to keep the ball in Staniger’s hands.
“He’s a great free-throw shooter,” the coach said. “He’s smart about what he’s doing wrong with his shots so I knew he would hit his next two.”
Kruger scored on a drive to the basket and then hit a 3-pointer — the Vikings made only 3 of 20 for the game — to cut Esko’s lead to 57-54 with 15.4 seconds left.
But Marc Peterson, who scored 11 points, iced Esko’s first tournament win in 10 years with three free throws.
Esko — Marc Peterson 3-12 3-4 11, Casey Staniger 5-10 4-6 15, Bobby Wright 0-0 2-2 2, Ben Hanson 0-2 0-0 0, Kory Deadrick 10-18 5-7 30, Jaxson Turner 1-1 0-3 2, Nate Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-43 14-22 60.
3-point goals — Deadrick 5-9, Peterson 2-7, Staniger 1-5, Hanson 0-1.
Hayfield — Cole Kruger 9-17 8-10 28, Trevor Anderson 1-8 0-0 3, Brady Stevens 2-2 0-0 4, Jeremy Stuart 6-8 1-3 13, Brady Kramer 2-11 0-0 4, Logan Adams 0-0 0-0 0, Jason Born 0-0 0-0 0, Merrick Ducharme 0-0 2-2 2, Drew Streightiff 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-48 11-15 54.
3-point goals — Kruger 2-7, Anderson 1-7, Kramer 0-4, Streightiff 0-2.