Esko, Cloquet win way to next roundCloquet advanced to semifinals (and beat Hermantown) while Esko plays Virginia tonight (March 14) in a 6 p.m. 7AA semifinal game at UMD's Romano Gym.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Kory Deadrick scored his 1,000th career point Saturday afternoon, but for the Esko junior, the only focus for him and his teammates is the state tournament.
“People remember teams that go to State,” said Deadrick, who gathered a game-leading 30 points in Esko’s 80-70 defeat of Braham in a Section 7AA boys basketball quarterfinal Saturday at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Romano Gymnasium. “I don’t just want to be remembered as a scorer, but completing the whole package — and going to State.”
That unselfishness has escalated the Eskomos (24-4) into one of the area’s finest teams. Deadrick and his heavy-scoring classmates Casey Staniger and Marc Peterson are constant scoring threats, while seniors Bobby Wright and Ben Hanson provide depth inside to a team entering Thursday’s semifinals with Virginia and perhaps Saturday’s championship against either Mora or Deer River.
Along with Deadrick’s milestone afternoon, Staniger scored 27 points Saturday. Esko led 39-28 at halftime and later held on to avenge last year’s eight-point section final loss to rival Braham.
“That’s the rematch we have been waiting for all year,” said Staniger. “Coach Devney told us we’ve never beat them before.”
“What I was most impressed with was, we didn’t fold,” Esko Coach Mike Devney said. “These guys don’t care who gets the credit; they want to be successful. We haven’t played our best basketball yet, but we still can and have the potential.”
The last time the Eskomos qualified for State was in 2003.
“We can get there,” Staniger said. “We feel like last year it was taken away from us, so now we want it more than anyone.”
Esko’s last loss this season was to Cloquet, who, like its neighbors, is seeking the first state trip in more than a decade. Last there in 2000, the Lumberjacks — now led by persistent post threats Adam Laine and Aaron Johnson — have won 13 of their past 15 games and are a true state tournament contender.
In a Section 7AAA semifinal with top-seeded Hermantown Wednesday evening as the Pine Journal went to press, a win would put Cloquet (18-9) in Friday’s finals against Grand Rapids or Chisago Lakes Area.
See "Lumberjacks advance in double overtime win over Hermantown" for the story of that game.
“Anybody can win this,” said Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia. “But we’ve been good offensively, clamped down on defense and are pounding it inside. We expected to be here.”
His players concurred.
“We think we can play with anybody if we play as well as we have,” said Laine, who had a game-high 33 points in Cloquet’s 76-61 quarterfinal win over visiting Zimmerman last Friday. “We’ve had fun and we want to keep celebrating.”
“We’ve been on a roll,” added sophomore Nate Weets, who aided a 28-7 run to begin last Friday’s second-half comeback. “If we play a full game like that, I think we’ll be pretty tough.”