Braham heads to state with physical win over Eskomos

DULUTH - When Scott Antonutti and his Esko girls basketball staff double-check for the proper gear before games, they'll make sure they got the essentials: Water bottles, uniforms and, of course, basketballs.

Savanna Trapp
Esko's Savanna Trapp grabs a rebound despite having her arm held by Braham's Katie Nickles in the Section 7AA finals Thursday at UMD. Trapp scored 14 points and teammate Keely Deadrick notched 18 to lead the Eskomos, who end their season at 26-4. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

DULUTH - When Scott Antonutti and his Esko girls basketball staff double-check for the proper gear before games, they'll make sure they got the essentials: Water bottles, uniforms and, of course, basketballs.

Never do they check for football pads. After last week, maybe they should.

In a basketball title tilt that looked more like a gridiron battle, the Eskomos were defeated by No. 1 state-ranked Braham 63-52 for the Section 7AA championship last Thursday before a hostile crowd of around 1,300 at Romano Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

During the tussle, fans on both sides were in an uproar due to the hard-fought style of play. A number of Eskomos came out with injuries, as Marisa Shady banged her head, Lydia Pelletier hurt her stomach and Alyson Glumac went down with a twisted ankle.

"I think it was an awfully physical game," said Antonutti.


Between the two opponents, that was to be expected. Both Esko and Braham have met for the section crown for the past two years. And, like last season, the Bombers slipped past the Eskomos and are headed back to the state dance.

And really, it was because of one player: Rebekah Dahlman.

Despite sitting out nearly the entire first half in foul trouble, Dahlman - a sophomore with more than 2,700 points in her stellar career already - took over in the final 18 minutes.

Dahlman scored 26 of her game-best 28 points in the second frame, as she single-handily guided the Bombers back from a 26-19 deficit at halftime. She scored 10 points in roughly five minutes, while her four-point play from the corner of the court ignited her bench and sparked her Braham teammates, giving them the momentum they needed to pull away.

"She made that shot from probably the toughest spot on the court," said Antonutti of Dahlman's rare four-point conversion. "She's just a heck of an athlete."

Antonutti's crew knew that coming in.

"Our girls were well-aware of her," Antonutti continued. "She just hit some tough shots against us out there. She's just awfully athletic."

Dahlman's second-half surge overshadowed Esko's enthusiastic play in the first. After trailing early, the Eskomos were keyed by their senior captain, Keely Deadrick, as the guard strung together a handful of baskets off the glass to give Esko the sizeable advantage by halftime. Soon after, though, heartbreak set in for the Eskomos.


"It's unfortunate that we're not going to state, but we didn't lose to any slouches," said Antonutti of his Eskomos who finished 26-4 this winter. "That loss was tough and I'm sure that it will sting for a bit, but it was a special year

for us."

That it was. For the first time in recent years, the Eskomos defeated arch rival Barnum for the Polar League title, while Deadrick finished her career with more than 1,400 points - putting her third all-time in school history - and sophomore Savanna Trapp concluded the season with over 200 blocked shots, the most ever in state history.

"We saw some cool things," Antonutti said, adding that Deadrick also set the single-game Esko girls basketball scoring mark - twice. "This loss was disappointing but really, only one team in our class doesn't end the year with one."

That said, Antonutti is happy for Braham.

"I hope they do well," he said. "It's unfortunate that we'll never find out how we would have done at state, but I think we proved we're one of the top teams in our class. I was proud of the efforts our kids gave."

Deadrick led the scoring attack for the Eskomos, as she scored 18 points, while Trapp had 14. Shady added eight, while both Pelletier and Glumac put in half a dozen each in the disappointing finish.

Esko will graduate a quartet of seniors, including starters Deadrick, Pelletier, Glumac and role player Danielle Salo. It's a group that Antonutti knows has been more than special.


"They're a great group, they have a lot of leadership," he said. "They'll be missed. But not just because they're basketball players, but because they're just great kids."

Looking to the future, Antonutti sees bright things.

"Our JV only lost four or five games," he continued. "Some of those kids have gotten a lot of playing time, too. I'm optimistic for our future. Hopefully we can keep things rolling."

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