Prep girls basketball: Karppinen leads Esko to section win over Hinckley-Finlayson
Senior Jayden Karppinen scored 26 of her game-high 34 points to lead the Eskomos to an 79-31 drubbing of the No. 15 seed Panthers.
ESKO — Long-distance shots fell in bunches for sharpshooter Jayden Karppinen in Esko’s Section 7AA quarterfinals matchup with No. 15 seed Hinckley-Finlayson.
The senior leader sank six shots from beyond the arc in the first half alone, and finished with a game-high 34 points to lead the No. 2 seed Eskomos to an 79-31 victory over the visiting Jaguars, Thursday, March 3, at Esko High School.
Coach Scott Antonutti said Karppinen’s scoring spree in the first half loomed large as the rest of the team struggled to find its rhythm.
“(It was) kind of fortunate for us, because I don’t think anybody else shot very well in the first half,” Antonutti said. “She seemed to be feeling it.”
Hinckley-Finlayson coach Robert Witter acknowledged the team had a tall hill to climb coming into the matchup, but was pleased overall with the team’s effort in the game and throughout its first season after moving up a class.
“We knew that we were probably overmatched in a few different spots, but that’s okay. Our goal was to come in and have fun as a group,” Witter said. “We’ve had a really successful season. It’s our first year in AA, so we’re happy with where we got to.”
The home team never trailed at any point of the contest as the court remained tilted heavily in favor of the Eskomos from the opening tip-off.
Karppinen poured in 12 of the team’s first 16 points to give the home team a 16-6 lead that later grew to 21-10 following a pair of made free throws by Kyra Johnson, who finished the game with 12 points.
Hinckley-Finlayson’s efforts to contain Karppinen down the stretch did little to cool her off, as she went on to make four more 3-point field goals before the break to pace the Eskomos with 26 of the team’s 34 first-half points in a 34-18 score.
Esko managed to put the game out of reach early on in the second half thanks to a 17-2 scoring run, highlighted by baskets from Karppinen, Johnson and Rachel Antonutti to make it a 51-20 game.
The Jaguars were held to just four second-half points until late in the contest before both teams went deep into their bench to close things out in an 79-31 final. The stifling defensive pressure is something that Antonutti hopes to see more of this postseason.
“I thought in the first half we lost some people and gave up some defensive rebounds, so we talked about that a little bit at halftime,” Antonutti said. “I was pleased with how we played the second half.”
The win pushes Esko to the Section 7AA semifinals, where they will take on No. 7 seed Virginia, Saturday, March 5 at Hermantown High School.