State tournament experience ‘a dream come true’The Eskomos lost to Annandale 59-58 Saturday afternoon in St. Paul on the season’s final day, finishing fourth place in the Class AA State Championships. Yet for the prestigious Polar League school, making just their third-ever state appearance after trips in 2003 and 1955, it was an everlasting experience for Esko.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
MINNEAPOLIS — The day after returning home from the Minnesota State Boys Basketball Tournament on a pair of crutches, the first thing Esko junior Casey Staniger wanted to do was shoot hoops.
“I don’t know what I’d do without basketball,” said Staniger, who was suffering from an injured right ankle. “For us guys, we’d be lost without it.”
The Eskomos lost to Annandale 59-58 Saturday afternoon in St. Paul on the season’s final day, finishing fourth place in the Class AA State Championships. Yet for the prestigious Polar League school, making just their third-ever state appearance after trips in 2003 and 1955, it was an everlasting experience for Esko.
“We’ve worked our whole lives to get to the state tournament,” said Kory Deadrick, an Esko junior named to the all-tournament team Saturday. “To come up a play short against Annandale hurts, but next year we’ll be a year older, and a year better, so maybe we can get back and get a couple more wins.”
Deadrick led Esko (27-6) to a tournament-opening win over Hayfield 60-54 last Wednesday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The elusive 6-foot-5 forward scored a game-leading 30 points, including 25 in the first half and his team’s opening 11, all while playing atop the 85-year-old arena’s historic two-foot raised floor.
“I wish all of the games were played there,” said Deadrick, noting he and his teammates have played at the University of Minnesota venue the past several summers for camps. “My teammates got me open and I got in a rhythm. I enjoy playing with the vibes and atmosphere at Williams — even when it’s empty.”
Esko was then emptied by eventual state runner-up Litchfield 72-47 in Friday’s semifinals at the Target Center where the Dragons defeated the Eskomos at their own game, hitting 14 three-pointers. Staniger scored a team-best 11 points, despite spraining his right ankle and being helped off the court midway through the second half.
“I think that deflated us a bit,” said 14-year Esko Coach Mike Devney, assisted by coaches Shane Deadrick, Gavin Erickson and Mike Bottila. “Casey had a very good season — all of these kids did. To get to the state semifinals, they all persevered, played at a very high level and continued to battle until the very end.”
Esko’s season then ended Saturday against Annandale when, despite Deadrick and classmate Marc Peterson’s 28 and 24 points, the team was scrambled on the final play only to lose at the buzzer.
Tied for second in school history with 27 wins and returning to state for the first time in a decade, Devney said nothing was a loss.
“These guys didn’t care who got the credit, but cared about each other — it’s fun to coach a team like that,” he said. “We have to have a good spring, summer and fall, but I hope we’ll be back.”
His players, now with the taste of State in their mouths, agreed.
“This was a dream come true — something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said Peterson. “Since we grew up in elementary school together, we’ve worked towards this. Now we want back.”
“I wanted to shoot the day after we got back,” added Staniger, now healed from his ankle injury. “I’ll be playing again Sunday.”