Esko’s summer league play came to an end Tuesday, July 27, after competing in the sixth annual Twin Ports Summer Jam at Cloquet Middle School.

The team was “inconsistent” during the summer, according to coach Derek Anderson, but the Eskomos have had players missing throughout the time. More importantly, players who gained varsity experience last season have emerged as leaders in July.

“There’s a lot of kids who got time last year that have been putting in a ton of work this summer,” Anderson said. “Cuinn Berger is one of them who’s stepped up his game this summer and taken over as the scorer. Dalton Spindler is another one who got some time last year and has really stepped up this summer and helped us out quite a bit.”

Others Anderson said could be major contributors this winter include Nick Swanson, Connor Lahti and Chad Hart.

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Esko's Cuinn Berger drives to the basket during the Twin Ports Summer Jam Monday, July 26, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Esko's Cuinn Berger drives to the basket during the Twin Ports Summer Jam Monday, July 26, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Berger, an incoming junior, said he has been working weekly at the Starks Academy in Duluth on shooting and other skills. He’s hoping Esko can play aggressively and get out on fast breaks.

“I want to run,” Berger said. “If things go well, we’ll run.”

Berger thinks the Eskomos are primed for another go at the state tournament after missing out in 2021. Esko won the Section 7AA title in 2020, but the state tournament was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can definitely go to state and make a run,” Berger said. “A lot of people wouldn’t say we’re the favorites, but we’re definitely up there. We’ve had some summer league games against other top teams and we’ve done really well.”

Berger’s coach believes his team can be contenders for a berth in the Class AA tournament, too.

“The goal is to make it back down to state and be playing down there,” Anderson said. “Obviously, we’ve got to put the work in this offseason and get everybody here on the same page.”