Braham betters EskomosIn arguably the best performance in school history, Brahams Tyler Vaughan scored 53 points en route to carrying Braham to an 81-73 victory over Esko in Saturday’s Section 7AA championship at Romano Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
DULUTH – With a trip to state on the line Saturday night, Mike Devney calmly reminded his Esko boys basketball team to follow their game plan and limit Braham’s offensive rebounding chances.
With Tyler Vaughan shooting, those chances rarely ever came.
In arguably the best performance in school history, Vaughan scored 53 points en route to carrying Braham to an 81-73 victory over Esko in Saturday’s Section 7AA championship at Romano Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“He spends a lot of time in the gym,” Devney said of the elusive guard. “It was just one of those nights where he got in the groove and we just couldn’t stop him. We just couldn’t slow him down.”
Vaughan scored 31 of his points in the second half to lead the top-ranked Bombers (29-1) back from a 40-30 halftime deficit. The quick-handed senior made 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch. Vaughan stands sixth in state history with 3,255 career points, but his coach (and father), Bob, was quick to say Saturday’s efforts ranked amongst the best.
“This is the tops,” Coach Vaughan told the Duluth News Tribune of his son’s performance. “He wanted to win so badly. It’s maybe the greatest game a Braham player ever played considering what we had to overcome at the half. He was bound and determined.”
Vaughan snapped a late tie with a drive to the basket, while Zach Dahlman’s only bucket gave Braham a 67-65 lead they would never lose. Vaughan buried seven three-pointers, got to the rim, sank his free throws and rarely ever missed a shot.
“For me to do this on this big of a stage, I’m just so happy I can’t even express it. I’m just so happy for my town, my community and the players on the team,” Tyler Vaughan told the DNT. “I was hitting shots, and when I get in that groove, I feel like I’m not going to miss.”
Braham has now won 29 straight games since losing their opener to Hopkins. Entering this week’s Class AA state tournament, they’ll seek their first title since winning three straight in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Esko (25-5) closed its season a win short of joining the school’s1955 and 2003 state squads. It was the third straight season the Bombers eliminated the Eskomos.
Devney said the game turned rapidly following halftime.
“I thought we came out in the second and got a little sloppy,” said Devney, who watched the Bombers reclaim the advantage shortly after recess. “We let [Braham] back in it and they got on a roll in the second.”
“We expected them to fight back,” Esko senior guard Jackson Lindquist said, “but Vaughan was hitting everything and just couldn’t miss. We couldn’t do much and just couldn’t close things out.”
Visibly disappointed as the game closed, Lindquist missed a dunk before the buzzer rang. Devney immediately consoled both Lindquist and fellow senior center Jared Harms on the bench, proud of their longtime playing careers.
“Those two are just great examples of kids who are unselfish, work hard and have great attitudes,” Devney said of his lone seniors. “They are fantastic kids who will be sorely missed. It’ll be sad to see them go.”
“It was pretty emotional,” Harms said of sitting on the bench one final time. “We would have liked to make it to state, but we played our hearts out and had a great year. Yeah, it’s sad to be done, but I think we impressed a lot of people. We left everything out there on the court.”
Harms scored 15 points for Esko, while sophomore Marc Peterson added 18. Although Lindquist led all Eskomos with 24 points, he said it was Vaughan’s night to shine.
“I respect him a lot, he’s a great player,” Lindquist said. “Obviously it hurt to get so close to state and lose, but we played well. Vaughan just hit everything and got in the zone. There was no stopping him.”
Thursday, March 15
Section 7AA Semifinals