Girls basketball: Cardinals hold off Esko

Cromwell-Wright gets back on track after a loss to Hermantown; next game is against Floodwood Thursday, Jan. 30.

Cromwell-Wright's Shaily Hakamaki shoots between Esko's Kristy DeMuth and Brenna Stark (42) during the Cardinals' 56-48 win Thursday, Jan. 23. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Cromwell-Wright’s offense sputtered against a tenacious Esko defense, Thursday, Jan. 23, but but timely baskets from Shaily Hakamaki lifted the Cardinals to a 56-48 win in Esko.

The win, the first for the Cardinals in Esko in more than 20 years, got C-W back on track after a close loss at Hermantown — a Class AAA opponent — Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Esko senior Kristy DeMuth hit a 3-pointer to open the game, but the Eskomos struggled to solve the C-W zone and managed just 17 first-half points.

Esko’s defense — combined with two early fouls on sharpshooter Taya Hakamaki — limited the Cardinal offense and prevented the Eskomos from falling too far behind.

In the second half, Esko came out firing, and the C-W offense stalled. The Eskomos went on a 16-6 run to open the half and tied the game at 33.


Esko's Sarah Wagemaker drives past Cromwell-Wright's Amber Collman during the Eskomos' home loss Thursday, Jan. 23. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Shaily Hakamaki hit a 3-pointer to move the Cardinals back in front. Three minutes later, with Esko trailing by just two points, the senior guard was fouled on a made basket. She missed the free throw, but grabbed the rebound and put it back to give C-W a 48-42 lead.

Taya Hakamaki hit two more shots and the Cardinals went 4-for-6 from the free-throw line over the final minute to walk away with the school’s first win in Esko in more than 20 years.

Shaily Hakamaki finished with 21 points and Taya Hakamaki had 17.

Cardinal coach Jeff Gronner was happy with the win, especially after the Hermantown loss.

“We had some easy buckets missed and we’re still getting used to playing against higher level opponents,” Gronner said. “But give them credit, they played us tough.”

Senior Kristy DeMuth and junior Mallory Sunnarborg led the Eskomo defensive effort, coach Scott Antonutti said.


“Mallory Sunnarborg has been fantastic on defense for us all season long,” Antonutti said. “A ton of credit to the Hakamaki girls — they are just fantastic — but Kristy DeMuth is a pretty good athlete also. I thought with the way Mal’s been playing defense and the way Kristy can, that they would give us a chance and they did.”

DeMuth led the Eskomos with 21 points.

C-W (16-2) also topped Mesabi East Monday, Jan. 27, 74-68 and is next scheduled to play at Floodwood at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30.

Esko (11-7) beat Aitkin 61-34 Monday, Jan. 27, and will host Barnum at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30.

Cromwell-Wright 27-29—56

Esko 17-31—48

Esko — Jayden Karppinen 11, Aila Gabel 3, Sarah Wagemaker 9, Kristy DeMuth 21, Brenna Stark 3. Totals 15 11-18 48.


3-point goals — Karppinen 2, DeMuth 2.

Cromwell-Wright — Taya Hakamaki 17, Emmalee Hoover 3, Shaily Hakamaki 21, Sascha Korpela 5, Natalee Hakamaki 5, Andrea Pocernich 3, Amber Collman 2. Totals 21 8-13 56.

3-point goals — S. Hakamaki 2, Pocernich.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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