Esko senior Payton Wefel scored 30 points — including 17 in the second half — but the Eskomos fell at Hermantown 79-69 Thursday, Feb. 13.

Esko’s offense sputtered early in the first half, making poor decisions with the basketball and struggling to find a rhythm early.

“I think in the first half we had too many guys just standing and watching,” Esko coach Derek Anderson said. “Obviously, they have some size and some speed, but we were ready for that. It was the one guy that would dribble and four guys who would stand and watch that got us into some trouble — then it was not team basketball and it was more isolation, one-on-one. That doesn’t get the ball moving too well and when that happens the defense doesn’t have to work too hard.”

Esko's Payton Wefel shoots a 3-pointer over Hermantown's Kevin Thomas during the Eskomos' loss Thursday, Feb. 13. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal
Esko's Payton Wefel shoots a 3-pointer over Hermantown's Kevin Thomas during the Eskomos' loss Thursday, Feb. 13. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

The Eskomos scored just 10 points over the first 13 minutes of play and trailed by 16 points before a 9-3 run — powered by seven points from Wefel — helped them close the deficit to 10 points at the break.

The Esko offense found its footing in the second half with Wefel and Riley Fischer combining to score 32 points, but the defense struggled to stop the Hawks, particularly Peter Soumis, who scored 22 of his game-high 35 points in the second half.

Esko's Riley Fischer shoots over the defense of Hermantown's Dalton Everett during the Eskomos' 79-69 loss Thursday, Feb. 13, in Hermantown. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal
Esko's Riley Fischer shoots over the defense of Hermantown's Dalton Everett during the Eskomos' 79-69 loss Thursday, Feb. 13, in Hermantown. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

“We knew that they were a good team, obviously they have guys that can break you down one-on-one, height and guys that can shoot,” Anderson said. “We talked about being locked in for the entire game. I thought they did a decent job, but there were just too many lapses where guys got too flat in the gap and wouldn’t help on the drives. That made it more difficult for us to play team defense and they were able to take advantage of that.”

Soumis’ second half heroics allowed Hermantown to build a 68-49 lead with about five minutes to play.

Esko mounted an 11-2 run late to cut the lead to nine, but Hermantown senior Kaden Kuzca was fouled on a made basket and converted the free throw to extend the lead back to 12 and dash the Eskomos’ hopes.

Complicating matters for Esko was the absence of senior guard James LeGarde. LeGarde — who averages just over 20 points per game — suffered an ankle injury toward the end of practice Wednesday, Feb. 12, and was forced to sit out the Hermantown game. Anderson said LeGarde’s injury isn’t severe and he should be available as the Eskomos move into the Section 7AA tournament.

Esko 25-44—69

Hermantown 35-44—79

Esko — Eli Blue 12, Braden Gabec 2, Cade Berger 2, Payton Wefel 30, Riley Fischer 23. Totals 22 9-10 69.

3-point goals — Wefel 5.

Hermantown — Sam Mesedahl 11, Peter Soumis 35, Kevin Thomas 4, Steven Kragseth 3, Kaden Kucza 22, Dalton Everett 2. Totals 20 12-15 79.

3-point goals — Soumis 5, Kragseth, Kucza 3.