Part IV: Braham bests Esko, againThe Eskomos were again overpowered by Braham 58-53 in the Section 7AA girls basketball championship last Thursday at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Romano Gymnasium before more than 2,000 spectators.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Following the final buzzer, it was tears all around for the seniors on the Esko girls basketball team.
The Eskomos were again overpowered by Braham 58-53 in the Section 7AA girls basketball championship last Thursday at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Romano Gymnasium before more than 2,000 spectators. For Esko, it was their fourth consecutive section final loss to the state-storied Bombers.
“We had a fantastic season, but it is always difficult to have it end the way it did when we were once again just a few baskets short of advancing to State,” Esko Coach Scott Antonutti said afterward. “I am exceptionally proud of how our girls followed our game plan — it just wasn’t enough.”
Antonutti said that game plan was for his fourth-ranked Eskomos to take care of the ball against third-rated and unbeaten Braham’s relentless pressure, and mostly, try limiting Bombers’ senior Rebekah Dahlman — a McDonald’s All-American and Vanderbilt signee who is the state’s all-time leading scorer with an unparalleled 4,963 career points.
Working the ball through 6-foot-9 UCLA recruit Savanna Trapp, who returned for the first time since fracturing three bones in her right big toe two weeks earlier, Esko (26-4) trailed high-scoring Braham (30-0) just 26-21 at halftime.
Scoring 12 of her team-high 18 points after the break, Esko senior Claudia Turner led her team’s comeback, as the Eskomos grabbed their first lead at 33-32 with 13 minutes left. With Esko still up 43-39, Braham Coach Tim Malone called a timeout with 6:31 remaining, only to win as Esko faded late.
“There were times I was nervous,” said Malone, whose Bombers were led by Dahlman’s game-best 31 points and entered Wednesday’s state tournament for a fifth straight year. “We’ve played on the big stage against some of the state’s top teams, and over the years, Esko belongs right up there.”
Along with Turner, Marisa Shady and Trapp had 13 and 11 points, while Brooke Schramm and Kallyn Knutson added baskets as Esko’s five seniors counted for 50 of their team’s 53 points.
“We did everything we could,” said Schramm about her final basketball game. “We just weren’t able to pull it off.”
“Life goes on, but to come so close, so many times, it’s hard,” added Shady, a four-year player who will pursue running at Division I South Dakota State next year. “Basketball means a lot to us. I know I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”
Antonutti will also remember these particular seniors.
“It’s hard to say goodbye, but especially to them,” he said. “I can’t say enough about those kids. They won’t be forgotten.”