Prior to the start of their game, Devney gave Dolan a brand-new blue Esko jersey with the No. 13 on it, in honor of Dolan’s grandson, Henry, an 8-month-old currently battling heart defects down at a University of Minnesota hospital. Devney’s boys also donned red and black rubber wristbands during pre-game warm-ups to show their support for Henry, whose father — Dolan’s son — wore No. 13 when he used to play for him at Annandale.
While the girls' jug comes in at five pounds and has been traveling between towns since 1980, the boys' trophy looks more like a massive moonshine jug, weighing around 30 pounds. Marked with each season and score on the respective winning team's side each year, this small-school hoopla began for the boys in 1951.
Stats and scores aside, last Thursday was the Eskomos' annual holiday get-together at the Antonutti home in Esko. Gifts and games were plentiful, while Coach Antonutti said he prepared the annual breakfast egg bake.
Still, coach Jeff Gronner watched as his girls grinded out every point with mighty MIB. Trailing by as many as 11 early on when an agitated Gronner took a timeout, he then saw his group close the gap to 33-29 by the half.
"We'll host this as long as we can," said Battaglia, who played in the tournament at the middle school during his high school days of the late ’90s. "The gym is full, there are a ton of little kids, it's cool.
"They work their butts off every shift," the elder Mohelsky said of a team that has won four straight and hasn't lost since their lone defeat to Class AA's Dodge County 26 days ago. "We're playing well. As long as we stay within ourselves, I think we can compete with anyone."
BOYS & GIRLS BASKETBALL: Wood City Classic Tuesday & Wednesday Dec. 27-28 Cloquet High School Classic doesn't begin to describe this annual holiday event in Cloquet, as the Lumberjacks have hosted these busy days of basketball for a very long time.
Antonutti agreed, but was proud and optimistic about his gang, too. Minus Negen's hot hand in the first, the stat lines were even, comparing field goals, free throws and overall productiveness between the two teams. After all, Antonutti's Eskomos (5-1) had yet to lose entering Monday, and were ranked No. 6 in the a Class AA polls.
"Barnum has always been one of the most fun teams to play since I was little," he said of the two teams that will meet again Feb. 10 at Barnum. "I was just trying to play my role."
"It was a big win; everybody was having a good time," Barrett said. "We knew this would be a little personal for coach, but every game we are going to come to play. Coach told us to have fun with this one, but we needed to get right back at it Monday with practice."