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Esko falls short in Coaches Classic

ESKO - It's not the easiest to win a girls basketball game with just seven girls on the roster. Plagued by their lack of numbers, Scott Antonutti's Eskomos were outgunned by Floodwood Saturday night and the Polar Bears rolled 66-57 to earn the an...

Keely Deadrick
Esko junior guard Keely Deadrick scores two of her 30 points Saturday against Floodwood in the annual Esko Coaches Classic. Despite Deadrick's efforts, the Eskomos fell 66-57 to the Polar Bears, who claimed the holiday tournament title. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal

ESKO - It's not the easiest to win a girls basketball game with just seven girls on the roster.

Plagued by their lack of numbers, Scott Antonutti's Eskomos were outgunned by Floodwood Saturday night and the Polar Bears rolled 66-57 to earn the annual Esko Coaches Classic crown at Esko's Lincoln School.

"The loss was disappointing, but I was pleased with how the girls played," said Antonutti, who's in his second year with the Eskomos. "They really worked hard and gave it all they had. We just came up a little short out there."

The loss marked just the first of the season for the Eskomos (7-1), while Floodwood (7-2) avenged an earlier 63-60 loss to Esko en route to taking home the tournament title with an undefeated record.

"Floodwood really gets after it," added Antonutti about his opponent that knocked off Hermantown Friday evening to get to the title contest. "They're a tough team that has good chemistry. They can shoot the lights out too. They're just a very well-rounded team that plays the game hard."

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That well-rounded Polar Bear attack started early and often with Floodwood jumping out to a quick dozen-point lead before some people had even arrived. Esko eventually battled back to tie the score, but the Bears flexed their muscle late in the frame, taking a 35-28 lead into the locker rooms at halftime.

Floodwood kept up the pressure in the second half, scoring 13 of the first 14 points to expand their advantage. The Eskomos later climbed within single digits, but never found the lead.

"We had our opportunities tonight, but we just couldn't find the hoop," said Antonutti. "We knew Floodwood was going to come out and pressure us and we handled it. We just couldn't finish on the other end."

Esko was also missing starters Amanda Bergstedt, a senior guard, and freshman center Savanna Trapp. The junior varsity tournament going on at the same time also cut into Antonutti's roster, forcing a few players to step into unfamiliar roles.

"We came out a little nervous tonight," said Antonutti. "This first loss was tough, but these girls will bounce back. We're not going to dwell on this one; we'll be just fine."

As in their win over Nashwauk-Keewatin Friday night, Esko's Keely Deadrick led all scorers with a game-best 30 points - 20 of their 28 in the first half - while she collected 11 rebounds and five steals.

"Keely's really putting it all together out there," said Antonutti about his tournament's most valuable player. "She's strong, has good vision and can really shoot the ball."

Along with Deadrick's stellar effort, Eskomo seniors Julianne Carley and Katie Tonner chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.

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Junior Lydia Pelletier also joined Deadrick in making the All-Tournament Team for Esko.

Next to the Polar Bears and Eskomos was Nashwauk-Keewatin, a club that earned third place with a victory over Hermantown Saturday evening.

The loss will sit with Esko for a while, as they don't get back in action until Jan. 4 when they host winless Wrenshall on their home floor - but Antonutti's not worried.

"We'll definitely be ready to turn it up in January," he said.

Related Topics: BASKETBALLESKO
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