Girls basketball: Eskomos outlast Cloquet

Lumberjacks plagued by turnovers in season debut

Esko's Aila Gabel drives by Cloquet's Katie Turner to the basket during the Eskomos' season-opening win Friday, Nov. 22. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Esko sophomore Aila Gabel went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the closing minutes to help lift the Eskomos to a 49-43 win home win over Cloquet Friday, Nov. 22.

In teams’ season debut, Esko came out in an aggressive full-court press that would frustrate the Cloquet most of the first half.

Sophomore Jayden Karppinen scored seven straight points 3-pointer and two layups off Cloquet turnovers in the first half to give the Eskomos a 15-8 early lead. The Lumberjacks would battle back trail 27-26 based on 14 first-half points from sophomore Maddie Young.

Esko's Sarah Wagemaker grabs a rebound in front of Cloquet's Alexa Snesrud during the Eskomos' 49-43 home win Friday, Nov. 22. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal


Cloquet scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 33-27 lead early. Esko’s defense tightened again following a timeout and went on a 7-1 run to tie the game.

Later in the half, Gabel hit a 3-pointer late in the second half to give the Eskomos a 43-39 lead. Following another Lumberjack turnover, Esko started bleeding the clock, eventually forcing Cloquet to foul, with Gabel scoring the final five points of the game for Esko.

Head coach Scott Antonutti said he knew the Eskomos would struggle to score at times and that the team’s defense is going to need to carry it when shots aren’t falling.

“I think what you tonight is the way we’re going to have to play it,” Antonutti said. “We’re going to hopefully improve shooting-wise, but I think keeping pressure on is going to have to be our calling. We need to play with a lot of grit and perseverance. I think what you saw out of us defensively is going to have to be our niche this year.”

Gabel, Karppinen and senior Kristy DeMuth all had 14 points for Esko. Young led all scorers with 17 for Cloquet.

Cloquet's Maddie Young scores in front of Esko's Brenna Stark during the Lumberjacks' season-opening loss Friday, Nov. 22. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Cloquet head coach Heather Young was concerned about the Lumberjacks’ turnovers and free throw shooting. Cloquet committed 27 turnovers and was just 13-for-31 from the free throw line.


“We were taking the ball hard to the hoop,” Young said. “I love seeing that, but we have to understand that the other half of that job is finishing at the line. I know we’re not going to 100% from the line, but by god, we’ve got to get above 50%. Those free throws were huge and our turnovers — you can’t be a varsity team and have 27 turnovers.”

Esko (1-0) is next scheduled to play at Crosby-Ironton at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Cloquet (0-1) will host Bloomington Jefferson at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30.

Cloquet 26-17—43
Esko 2 7-22—49

Cloquet — Gracie Meagher 2, Kate Owens 6, Alexa Snesrud 4, Katie Turner 3, Maddie Young 17, Justice Paro 4, Caley Kruse 7. Totals 14 13-31 43.

3-point goals — Turner, Kruse.

Esko — Jayden Karppinen 14, Aila Gabel 14, Kristy DeMuth 14, Brenna Stark 7. Totals 15 16-26 49.

3-point goals — Karppinen 2, Gabel.


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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