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STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Knights knock off Eskomos

Esko senior forward Kailee Katt (right) dives for the ball against Kenyon-Wanamingo junior guard Emily Ashlad in the Minnesota Class AA high school girls basketball semifinals Friday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Photos by Jules Ameel
MINNEAPOLIS -While the Esko girls basketball team has been on a great run this March, it was a late first-half run by Kenyon-Wanamingo that proved too powerful.

Powered by their 15-1 spurt before halftime, the second-seeded Knights kept the upset-minded Eskomos at bay and later cruised to a 60-36 win in Friday night's Class AA state girls basketball semifinal at the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

Unseeded Esko (26-6), which became the tournament Cinderella when they stunned No. 3 New London-Spicer in Wednesday's quarterfinals, never led Friday. They did climb within 17-13 on a  pair of Karlie Kulas free-throws midway through the first half, until southwestern Minnesota's Kenyon-Wanamingo (31-1) went on its surge in the opening frame's final seven minutes en route to a 32-14 halftime advantage.

 Esko's Kailee Katt sank a right-wing 3-pointer to open the second half and close the Knight's lead to 15, but after watching Wednesday night's shocker, the Knights wanted no part to being the Eskomos' second victim. "I was impressed," said Kenyon-Wanamingo Coach Brent Lurken, who had witnessed Esko's stunning 39-35 win. "Luckily we were just able to get off to a quick start tonight, because Esko is a tough team to deal with - teams are going to have be dealing with them for years to come." Siri Sviggum - who scored a layup just seconds after the opening tip - and teammates Megan and Mara Quam scored 18, 12 and 10 points, respectively, to lead the Knights, whose only 67-60 loss this year came to No. 1 New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0), the state's defending champions and the Knights opponent in Saturday's 2 p.m. championship game at Williams Arena.
 The lopsided game Friday saw Esko's Judy Wagemaker score 15 points, including 12 in the second half, while Katt collected eight in the Polar League school's first defeat since Feb. 22. The Eskomos, in their 10th overall state appearance and first since 2007, now face Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (28-3) in Saturday's third-place game at 12 p.m. at the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University-St. Paul. Esko edged the Lakers 63-60 when the two teams met in 2012. Esko - 14 - 22 - 36Kenyon-Wanamingo 32 - 28 - 60 Esko - Judy Wagemaker 15, Kailee Katt 8, Erika Shady 5, Bailey Mudek 3, Ashley Bergerson 2, Karlie Kulas 2, Hailey Salo 1. Totals: 11 8-15 36.
 3-point goals - Wagemaker 2, Katt 2, Shady, Mudek.Kenyon-Wanamingo - Siri Sviggum 18, Megan Quam 12, Mara Quam 10, Audra Clark 8, Brittney Flom 8, Meg Clark 2, Savannah Bleess 2. Totals: 22 14-15 60.
3-point goals - Sviggum, Mara Quam.