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Rebels top Eskomos in Polar League

ESKO, Minn. - Esko versus Moose Lake-Willow River - a Polar League Conference rivalry always at its finest, where the offense is a little faster, the defense is a little stronger and where the bragging rights couldn't get any higher.

ESKO, Minn. - Esko versus Moose Lake-Willow River - a Polar League Conference rivalry always at its finest, where the offense is a little faster, the defense is a little stronger and where the bragging rights couldn't get any higher.

Friday night's clash was no exception.

In a contest that most had circled on their calendars before the season even started, ML-WR used their fast-paced style of play and solid defense to knock off Esko 66-48 before the capacity-filled Eskomo gym.

The affair started quickly, as both squads battled back and forth, exchanging buckets throughout the half. The conference-leading Rebels (13-3 overall; 7-1 Polar League Conference) eventually took a commanding lead. However, the host Eskomos (6-10; 3-2) climbed back near the end of the half to find themselves trailing 34-24 at recess.

After the teams returned from the locker rooms, the Rebels' senior leadership of forward Nate Zuk and guard Joey Bohaty proved to be too much for the young Eskomos and ML-WR ran off to their seventh straight victory, including their fifth on the road.

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"The boys played tough tonight," said Rebel head coach Scott Hendricks about his club who returns just two starting seniors from a year ago. "Joey and Nate are great players to build around and the boys are really building some confidence right now."

Even with the tough loss to their conference rivals, Esko head coach Mike Devney was pleased with his boys' efforts on the hardwood.

"I thought we played well tonight," said Devney about his club, who hung with the Polar League's best. "We don't quite have the experience that they do, but we're still learning on the run and will continue to get better as the season continues."

ML-WR was guided by Zuk, who racked up a team-high 20 points, while freshman star forward Taylor Mattison followed with 11 points. Bohaty tallied nine and freshman forward Caleb Koecher posted eight in their seventh straight conference win.

The Rebels were also paced by their junior guard Austin Jacobson, who collected seven points, while fellow sophomore guard Trevor Nummela added six on the night. Junior center Lucas Probst also dispatched three points in the victory, while sophomore guard Ryan Adamczak sank a bucket to close out the box score.

"We started the season a little slow and it definitely took us a while to get going," said Hendricks about his Rebels, who have won 12 of their last 13 contests. "But now, we're starting to blend together and the boys are starting to know their roles."

Esko was led by their senior forward Jamie Stokes, who poured in a game-leading 21 points, while sophomore forward Jake Stainbrook gathered 10 points and senior forward Andy Wischnewski added seven in the loss.

Junior guard Adam Daveau also scored four points on the night for the blue and gold, while senior center Matt Tengesdal, junior forward Brent Bodie and freshman guard Jackson Lindquist all chipped in baskets for the Eskomos.

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"Jamie is playing great basketball, he's a great leader and is staying positive with the younger guys," said Devney about his senior leader during their current five-game losing streak. "We're young, but right now, we just need to get a good quality win to boost our confidence."

The Moose Lake-Willow River team - who tallied another 60-36 road win at Duluth Marshall Tuesday night for their eighth straight victory - will now put their hot-streak on the line when the travel up north to play a solid Mesabi East squad at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2. They will host an always-exciting conference battle with Barnum on Friday, Feb. 6.

The Eskomos - who played hard in a 70-62 loss to a much bigger Mora squad Tuesday night - will square off against a pair of conference foes when they travel to Barnum on Friday, Jan. 30 and welcome Cromwell a week later on Friday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m.

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