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Eskomos earn basketball’s top prize

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MINNEAPOLIS—Jacob Lindstrom’s layup inside was his only score Saturday, but the senior center’s two points were a fitting finish to a career spent helping Esko achieve its first-ever state boys basketball championship.

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High school basketball’s top prize went to the Eskomos after they defeated Annandale 60-41 in the Class AA state championship Saturday at Target Center in Minneapolis — and Esko became the first northeastern Minnesota school to win it all since Chisholm claimed the Class A crown in 1991.

“It’s kind of a dream come true,” said Lindstrom, a reserve post player who was one of all four seniors to score on Saturday, following Marc Peterson, Kory Deadrick and Casey Staniger’s 16-, 14- and 13-point efforts, respectively.

Esko’s veteran efforts showed all week, earlier edging East Grand Forks in an overtime quarterfinal, and then fending off Fairmont after trailing at halftime in the semifinal.

Saturday, the second-seeded Eskomos (29-3), in their fourth overall state appearance, second straight and first state final, were poised to win. Taking a 22-18 halftime advantage on the No. 1 Cardinals (25-7), Esko expanded its lead and then protected it before mobbing the court at the final horn.

“You can’t wait for that buzzer to go off,” said Deadrick, the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, who was able to share the special moment along with his father and assistant coach, Shane. “You can’t really end it any better.

Led by Matt Miller’s 10 points, Esko avenged a 59-58 loss to the Cardinals for third place last year.

“We knew a year ago that this had a good chance to happen,” said Annandale Coach Don “Skip” Dolan of meeting the Eskomos again in the final. “Our hats are off to them. They outplayed us, and deserve to be state champs today.”

Like before every big game, Peterson — an all-tournament team pick with fellow 1,000-plus-point scorers Deadrick and Staniger — said a prayer to his late grandfather, Bob, who coached Esko to a state football title in 1975.

“Just one of the best days of my life,” Peterson recalled. “It’s something that I will remember for my whole life.”

Trying to get ahold of his father on the phone afterward, Staniger smiled widely, noting the moment hadn’t set in yet.

Yet it was Esko Coach Mike Devney, a coach for 20 years including 15 at Esko, who perhaps put it best.

“It was time,” Devney said of the team’s motto to represent the Northland region at State. “Sometimes we get forgotten, but we have some pretty good basketball up here.”