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Esko notches 2 wins, drops 1

Esko's Kristy Demuth keeps an eye on the net while getting pressure from South Ridge's Bethany Williams during the Thursday, Feb. 1, matchup in Esko. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal1 / 2
South Ridge's Marissa Bober looks for an opening to pass around Esko's Macy Sunnarborg. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal2 / 2

With only one senior in the lineup, the Esko girls' basketball team has more growing to do. But it's also winning games now, which makes life doubly fun for coach Scott Antonutti.

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Esko used a solid 2-3 zone defense to hold South Ridge to four points in the first half on the way to a 57-22 win. Bridget Yellin had 13 points and the defense was stifling in the win.

"We have done well on defense and Bridget has been a difference-maker in the post," Antonutti said. "We have good players on the base of our zone and it has shown."

Marissa Bober led the Panthers (7-12) with six points on the night. South Ridge rebounded the following Monday to beat Fond du Lac 103-21, leading 75-10 at halftime. Celia Olesiak scored 34 points and hit eight three-pointers in the game.

But Yellin was the story for Esko on Tuesday, Feb. 6, against Carlton, tying a school record with 13 blocked shots in a 59-31 Esko win. In that game, the Eskomos held the Bulldogs to only seven points in the first half.

"We ran away from the basketball in the first half," Carlton coach Andy Weber said. "Esko played us tough defensively, but on our side, nobody wanted to take charge and take the shots."

Meanwhile, Yellin dominated with a triple-double. In addition to her 13 blocks, she scored 21 points and had 16 rebounds.

"When she shoots, she's a good bet to get a rebound, too," Antonutti said of Yellin. "She has a good knack for the game and has good hands. She's shooting over 50 percent from the floor and is a solid player."

"We needed to double-team her (Yellin)," Weber said. "Basically we had a 1-1-3 zone at times and sometimes a diamond and one. It looked odd but she had a very good game."

Esko also lost 68-41 at Grand Rapids on Monday, Feb. 5, to fall to 14-8 on the season.

"It's good to play bigger, stronger and faster teams," Antonutti said. "We were without two starters in the game and that didn't help."

Yellin scored 23 points in a losing effort but the Thunderhawks had nine different scorers, including four in double figures, to earn the win. Macy Sunnarborg (ankle) and Kaitlyn Bergerson (illness) missed the Rapids game.

As such, the Eskomos don't have a gaudy record with the playoffs approaching, but that doesn't matter to Antonutti.

"I don't think there's a clear-cut favorite in our section," he said. "There are any of six to eight teams that could win it, and I include ourselves in that mix.

"We've seen a lot of teams in our section," Antonutti said. "We split with Proctor, lost to Pequot Lanes in a game where Bridget didn't play, had close games with Aitkin and International Falls and lost to Virginia. Whoever comes out of the section will be the one that takes the best care of the ball and shoots the best, but that's nothing new."