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Lady Eskomos eliminated from state tournament

All signs led to a good chance Esko would come away with a first-round win in the Minnesota State Class AA Girls Basketball Tournament. Afterall, the Eskomos were making their second straight state tournament appearance with virtually their entir...

All signs led to a good chance Esko would come away with a first-round win in the Minnesota State Class AA Girls Basketball Tournament. Afterall, the Eskomos were making their second straight state tournament appearance with virtually their entire team intact, while their opponent, Norwood-Young America, had never won a game in the state tournament. Unfortunately N-YA came away with a 53-47 victory to eliminate the Eskomos from title contention.

The Raiders took a 27-25 halftime lead in a game that was tight throughout. The Eskomos formula of using depth and speed to win games was in their plan again against N-YA. The plan appeared to work in the first half as the Raiders were able to get some good shots, but instead of making those shots they would rim out, leaving the Eskomos in the game. For the first half the Raiders shot just 30 percent in the first half.

"It was a frustrating game. We didn't play like we are capable of," mentioned Esko coach Sue Northey. "Despite our poor play we were able to keep the game close."

For the game the Eskomos were out-attempted from the field by the Raiders 61 to 46, but the Raiders made just two more shots from the field than did Esko.

The Eskomos had trouble finding a solution to Jessica Schrupp, who ended the game with a double-double scoring 14 points and pacing both teams with 18 rebounds. Mackenzie Wolter and Becky Otto were also strong offensively for the Raiders with 15 and 13 points, respectively. In fact, the trio combined for a total of 44 of the 61 shot attempts by Norwood-Young America.

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A big key to the Raiders scoring came from second chance points and the fact that they had 17 offensive rebounds in the game. For the game the Raiders out-rebounded Esko 40-37.

Early in the second half the Raiders extended their lead to nine points, but the Eskomos fought back and eventually tied the score with about nine minutes remaining in regulation. Esko managed a 45-44 lead with 4:12 remaining before Norwood managed to score seven of the final nine points to take the win.

"Early on we had chances to jump ahead and did not seize our opportunies," said Northey. "We went ahead 46-45 and then missed a layup and front ends of one-and-ones."

Another key to the win was the fact that the Raiders were 12-of-17 from the free-throw line, while Esko was 7-of-17 from the line.

"It is hard to explain the game," commented Northey. "As a team we gave ourselves a 'C' or 'D' grade. Despite that game, we are very proud of our team and the season we had. Our seniors have demonstrated great leadership for our younger players and, hopefully, the strong tradition of Esko girls basketball will continue."

Amber Ryan had a solid game with 12 points and seven rebounds for the Eskomos, Sami Mattson finished with eight points, Jade Baxley added five points and six rebounds, Jessica Bergstedt scored seven, Ashley Langila added four points and seven rebounds, Katy Sunnarborg and Kelli Rengo each scored three, it was two each for Amber Jubie and Roz Chromy, and Jamie Rust finished with a point. In all, 10 different Eskomos scored in the game.

Esko graduates Jade Baxley, Katy Sunnarborg, Sami Mattson, Tia Salo, Amber Ryan, Ashley Langila, Lacey Joslin, Jessica Bergstedt and Kayla Jenkins. That group has been a part of a team that won the Polar League four years running, they have a 32-game unbeaten streak in the conference, and they have been to two straight state tournaments.

The Eskomos finish the season with a 27-4 record.

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Pine Journal sports reporter Kerry Rodd can be contacted at: kdrodd@aol.com .

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