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Girls basketball: Negen nets 1,000; Rangers run past Esko

Esko's Sarah Wagemaker makes a layup while being fouled by Mountain Iron-Buhl's Brooke Niska on Monday, Dec. 17. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal1 / 3
Esko's Annika Wold shoots a 3-pointer during the Monday, Dec. 17, game versus Mountain Iron-Buhl. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal2 / 3
Esko's Kristy DeMuth scores 2 of her 20 points during the Monday, Dec. 17, game versus Mountain Iron-Buhl. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal3 / 3

ESKO — After several high-scoring appearances in the Esko gym over her decorated prep career, including swishing her 1,000th point earlier this week, Mountain Iron-Buhl's Allie Negen was asked if there was something she liked about playing in the blue and gold venue.

"Maybe it's a coincidence," she said with a smile.

Or, maybe it's that the senior is a tireless worker. The 5-foot-10 guard is now in her sixth season on the Rangers' varsity and is showing no signs of slowing down, scoring a game-high 23 points Monday, Dec. 17, to help MIB run to an 88-53 win during another impressive performance at the home of the Eskomos.

Time is what MIB coach Jeff Buffetta said has been the ingredient of their success, as unbeaten MIB (7-0), ranked second in Class A, is off to another promising start.

"We don't have a lot of kids, but we have ones who are willing to to buy in and be the best that they can be," Buffetta said.

As was the scene Monday, Dec. 17, when the Rangers took a 38-31 halftime advantage and turned it into 35-point victory behind their endless energy and tidied-up full-court pressure, causing countless Esko turnovers in exchange for easy baskets.

"They push the ball up so quickly and run the floor so hard," Esko coach Scott Antonutti said. "You don't just get physically fatigued, but mentally fatigued."

"We lost track of who we were guarding," added Esko junior Kristy DeMuth. "They made us pay for it if we didn't match up."

DeMuth, a four-sport athlete also involved in soccer, softball and is the football kicker, scored a team-best 20 points to pace the Eskomos (4-4), but a pair of 11-0 and 12-2 second-half spurts by MIB put the game out of reach.

"I think that might be the most points we've given up in my career," said Antonutti, taking blame for an MIB opponent that totaled 29 field goals and 22 free-throws. "I've gotta do a better job of having my girls prepared."

Esko has been busy, playing three games last week, three this week and three more this coming week in hosting their annual holiday tournament. This all comes with the absence of 6-foot-1 senior center Bridget Yellin, who is likely to return this week, yet has missed the last six contests with a nagging ankle injury.

Still, Antonutti remains optimistic in his group, a handful of which saw plentiful time in Esko's last state tournament run in 2017.

"These are all fancy practices for March," said Antonutti, his Eskomos never out of the 7AA contenders conversation.

Esko 31-22—53

Mountain Iron-Buhl 38-50—88

Esko — Annika Wold 6, Mallory Sunnarborg 2, Sydney Hanson 5, Macy Sunnarborg 8, Sarah Wagemaker 7, Kaitlyn Bergerson 5, Kristy DeMuth 20. Totals 16 13-22 53.

3-point goals — Wold 2, Hanson, Macy Sunnarborg 2, Bergerson, DeMuth 2.

Mountain Iron-Buhl — Macy Savela 13, Paris Pontinen 2, Brooke Niska 5, Miah Gellerstedt 4, Allie Negen 23, Madisen Overbye 21, Mia Ganyo 11, Mattison Bennett 9. Totals 29 22-25 88.

3-point goals — Savela, Niska, Negen 2, Overbye 3, Ganyo.