Girls Basketball Preview: Eskomos are early favoritesEsko has been to the Section 7AA championship three years in a row, falling short to Braham each time. It’s this year – with five senior starters including Division 1 recruit Savanna Trapp – when the Eskomos could change that. Read a preview of the Eskomos and other area girls basketball teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Perhaps the only thing that can reach higher than 6-foot-9 Savanna Trapp is the Esko girls basketball team she plays for.
Trapp, an almost insurmountable senior center, is again the centerpiece for her team this season. In her fifth – and final – varsity season, she and the Eskomos are once again the early favorites.
Courted by a multitude of Division I universities, Trapp traveled to Los Angeles in August, then verbally committed to play for the storied UCLA women’s team. She signed her national letter of intent in early November.
“I’m ready for UCLA, but the most important thing is to take care of my Esko girls because we have some unfinished business,” Trapp said Tuesday evening. “My focus is right here – right now.”
Trapp honed her skills throughout the offseason by traveling the country playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball in summer. Now she’s in the Esko gymnasium before 6 a.m. strengthening her skills this fall.
“My alarm went off at 5:30,” she said. “We’re all going into this season guns-blazing. We’re going to leave it all on the floor.”
Esko has been to the Section 7AA championship three years in a row, falling short to Braham each time. The Eskomos haven’t qualified for the state tournament since 2007.
It’s this year – with five senior starters – when the Eskomos could change that. One of those seniors, three-year starter Marisa Shady, said the team is driven to succeed.
“Not that any of our other seasons didn’t mean much, but as a senior, your mindset changes – you want it,” said Shady, a 5-foot-7 point guard. “We’ve been doing this since kindergarten, so this is our last hoorah. We have a lot of motivation. It might be our best year yet.”
Still, if the Eskomos expect to make a deep run, the small Polar League school will have to use all of its available weapons.
Shady will be accompanied by Kallyn Knutson in the backcourt along with Barnum transfer Claudia Turner. Forward Brooke Schramm can also slash the lane, playing inside and opposite Trapp.
“It starts with those five seniors; they’re great leaders that have rubbed off on the younger kids, too,” said fifth-year Esko Coach Scott Antonutti. “But I have never gone a full season with the same five kids starting – someone always gets sick or rolls an ankle.”
Reserve guards Bailey Mudek and Erika Shady will each see ample varsity time, too, providing security for the experience-laden Eskomos.
“We’ll have great depth,” Antonutti said. “I’m optimistic and I think the girls are, too. I think we’ll be in the mix again, but we’ll have to be prepared every game. We’ll get challenged.”
That certainly will be the case when Esko hosts state heavyweight Hopkins Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in their season opener in “Fill the Gym Night,” while they’ll tango with fellow Class AAAA giant Lakeville South Saturday at the highly-touted Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins.
Trapp, who said she played with several Hopkins players during AAU in the summer, totaled 284 rebounds, 153 blocks and a school-record 604 points last year. Antonutti said she’s even stronger now.
“She continues to improve,” he said. “There will be times at practice where you just hear the rim go – because she just dunked.
“I guess I would, too,” he continued, “if I could.”
Barnum – Katie Moench will take over for legendary Coach Randy Myhre, who retired after last season with 626 wins. Moench, a former collegiate guard at the University of Wisconsin Superior, is in her first year as a head coach. The Bombers – with no seniors – will look to veteran Daron Mainville inside the lane, while Lissa Warpula and Cheyanne Johnson will provide depth in the backcourt.
Carlton – Lisa Johnson returns for her fifth season as the Bulldogs boast strong senior leaders in Brooke Camps and Tori Zime up top, and Clarissa Nelson underneath. Junior guard Taylor Klassen also brings experience to the table.
Cloquet – Jeff Ojanen will again coach the Lumberjacks, along with legendary coach Jerry Erickson as an assistant on staff. Cloquet will be led by its eight seniors, including longtime starters Kenzie Rathe and Krista Schmitz. Junior Jaden Cofield will also be a threat from the forward spot.
Cromwell-Wright – Barely able to catch his breath from coaching football this fall, girls basketball assistant coach Jeff Gronner will move into the head coaching position this year, taking over for Terry Sawdey. The Cardinals will run deep and have optimal options in senior scorers Ann Collman, Brittany Johnson and Kayle Johnson.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe – Stacie Marsolek moves into her third season at the helm for the Ogichidaa, who will again sport a young team. As of Tuesday evening, Athletic Director Earl Otis said the small tribal school will only field a varsity team.
Moose Lake-Willow River ¬– The Rebels return with Coach Joe Adamczak, who – after three years of assisting – took over for Andrew Miller. The brother of Rebels’ superstar Annie Adamczak, Joe said ML-WR will be carried by Adri Juczak and lone senior guards Taylor Miller and Shaelyn Halverson.
South Ridge – Brad Olesiak is in his third year at South Ridge, as the Culver-based Panthers will look to Justice Janke and Olesiak’s daughter, Mikayla, as the only varsity returnees. Kayla Jackson, from Carlton, will also help.
Wrenshall – The Wrens will rely on youth with experience this winter, seeking to replace longtime starter Maria Burcar. Coach Michelle Blanchard, in her fourth season with the Wrens, sports only one senior in forward Taylor Dagger.