Girls Basketball Roundup-Esko defends Coaches ClassicAll the fourth-ranked Eskomos (9-1) have done lately is win. The hosts recently captured their third consecutive Esko Coaches Classic title by toppling Class A’s top-rated Maranatha Christian Academy 68-42 last Friday and North Woods 59-48 Saturday in the championship game. Since dropping their season opener to No. 1 unbeaten Hopkins, the Eskomos haven’t lost, winning nine straight.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ESKO – Learning basketball as a young child, Esko’s Claudia Turner quickly discovered using two hands was better than one.
“I am better at going to my left even though I’m right-handed. It must have been all the dribbling my dad had me do,” Turner said Tuesday. “I think I started in first grade going to Saturday morning basketball. I really enjoy playing. It’s something I’ve always done.”
All the fourth-ranked Eskomos (9-1) have done lately is win. The hosts recently captured their third consecutive Esko Coaches Classic title by toppling Class A’s top-rated Maranatha Christian Academy 68-42 last Friday and North Woods 59-48 Saturday in the championship game. Since dropping their season opener to No. 1 unbeaten Hopkins, the Eskomos haven’t lost, winning nine straight.
Turner, a senior, has been a big asset. After spending the past two years trying to beat the Esko system, the shifty 5-foot-7 guard is now a big part of the team after the Turner family moved from Barnum to Esko. She explained they made the switch to be closer to her father’s job; Keith Turner is the football coach and athletic director at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet. Claudia noted the switch has been good, despite the Polar League schools’ long-lived rivalry.
“It’s surprised me how easy it’s been. Everyone has opened up and been really nice – the transition has gone very well,” Turner said. “I thought it was going to go well, but not this well.”
Turner did her share last week, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and four steals Friday. She was effective from a distance, at taking the ball to the rim and creating havoc in transition against the No. 1 Mustangs. She added seven more points on the Grizzlies the following Saturday afternoon, in Esko’s comeback win for the title.
“She’s got a knack for putting the ball down and going to the basket,” said fifth-year Esko Coach Scott Antonutti. “She’s able to finish, [she’s] a good free-throw shooter and a good ball-handler.”
Antonutti explained his team has handled the ball exceptionally this winter, as Turner, along with fellow guards Marisa Shady, Kallyn Knutson, Brooke Schramm, Erika Shady and Bailey Mudek all contribute along with 6-foot-9 UCLA-bound center Savanna Trapp.
“We had a great couple of trips in the second half of the championship,” Antonutti said of a game they trailed North Woods 28-27 at halftime. “Our girls were confident, patient and got some big baskets after some long possessions. That was the deflator.”
“We’re playing well,” added Turner. “We’re always looking for the easiest shot, whether we have to pass the ball 20 times or not.”
Trapp led the Eskomos with 27 points in each win, including a triple-double effort of 13 rebounds and 10 blocks against North Woods, and was named the Most Valuable Player for a second consecutive year. Trapp, a senior, was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Schramm and Turner.
“She’s a great addition to our team – she fits right in,” Trapp said about Turner. “She’s a great athlete and teammate and we’re just happy to have her. She’s really strong and has a good left-handed drive.”
Just like she learned to do.
Barnum (4-4) lost after a three-game winning spurt, when the Bombers were blitzed by visiting No. 5 Braham 71-24 last Friday.
Carlton (2-4) cracked its previous three-game losing stretch with a 49-40 win at Onamia last Friday. The Bulldogs remain busy, facing nearby South Ridge Thursday at the Proctor Invitational.
Cromwell-Wright (5-3) has won three straight, including a 71-48 drubbing of host Hill City last week. The surging Cardinals travel southward to the Randolph Invitational Thursday and Friday.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (1-5) opens the Columbia Heights Holiday Invitational with games both Thursday and Friday. The young Ogichidaa have one win so far this season against Lac Courte Oreilles.
Moose Lake-Willow River (5-2) ran past visiting Rush City 47-29 last week and now enters the annual eight-team, three-day Hibbing Holiday Invitational set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
South Ridge (2-4) has remained idle for over a week, but will clash with neighboring Carlton Thursday at the Proctor Invitational.
Wrenshall (1-6) was recently drubbed by host Cherry 72-13 last week. Losers of six of seven, the Wrens beat Duluth Marshall earlier this season.
FDLTCC (0-10) has lost all 10 games this season after forfeiting the program’s first-ever win. The Thunder, on break for the holidays, will next play at Mesabi Range on Friday, Jan. 11.