Prep girls basketball: Esko surges past Proctor
Stark’s 19 second-half points propel Eskomos.
The Esko Eskomos overcame a sluggish first half to defeat the hometown Proctor Rails in nonconference action on Saturday, March 6.
The Rails (9-6) rode senior center Josie Maahs’s nine first-half points to a four-point lead at the break. On the defensive side, Maahs all but shut down Esko center Brenna Stark, holding her to five first-half points. Maahs finished with 13 points for the game, second only to Peyton Rodberg’s team-leading 15.
“She’s kind of our heart and soul of our team,” Proctor coach Matt Solberg said of Maahs. “Looking back at it, once she sat down, they went on a little bit of a run.”
Maahs picked up a couple of quick fouls early in the second half, and the Eskomos seized the opportunity. With the Rails’ starting center on the bench, Stark sparked a 10-0 run early in the half.
“She’s just a fantastic leader, and has been for a while,” Esko coach Scott Antonutti said of his senior center. “She’ll accept any role that we give her. In the second half she converted some shots, and there were some nice passes in to her, too.”
Over a 6-minute span in the middle of the half, Stark scored 13 of the team’s 16 points, including a 3-pointer. She finished with a game-leading 21, followed by junior Jayden Karppinen’s 20.
Esko tied the game within the first 5 minutes after the break and nursed a small lead for most of the half. They ended the game with a string of free throws to widen the margin.
“We made an adjustment at halftime, and the girls responded well,” Antonutti said. “Brenna hit some shots and that opened the perimeter up, and we got some 3’s to fall, too.”
Esko (11-3) shot well throughout the game. They made nine shots from behind the arc – at an impressive rate of over 50% – and also hit 14 of 16 free throws.
On the defensive end, the Eskomos harassed the Rails with a full-court press all evening. While it didn’t generate many turnovers, Esko’s Antonutti thought the pressure still impacted the game.
“They handled (the press) well, but our intention was to just wear ‘em down a little bit,” he said. “Did it work? I don’t know, but they scored less (in the second half). We were rotating a lot of girls in, and I think our girls did a nice job getting the pressure on throughout. The press maybe paid off there near the end.”
“We handled the ball pretty well – we’ve been working on it constantly,” Solberg said. “Nobody likes to be pressed, but if you’re not good at it, you’re going to keep getting it.
“In the second half, they just hit their shots,” he continued. “They took advantage of (Stark) inside and just finished at the rim. Tip your cap – they’re a good team. Hopefully we see them again come playoff time.”
“We didn’t shoot very well the other night, and lost,” Antonutti said. “I think that’s the way basketball works – you make your shots, and you win.”
Esko 25-34 – 59
Proctor 29-19 – 48
Esko – Jayden Karppinen 20, Aila Gabel 8, Avery Kuklinski 5, Rachel Antonutti 5, Brenna Stark 21. Totals 18 14-16 59.
3-point goals – Karppinen 4, Gabel 2, Autonutti, Stark 2.
Proctor – Jessica Haedrich 2, Courtney Werner 4, Hope Carlson 2, Ava Griswold 3, Josie Maahs 13, Hailie Evans 9, Peyton Rodberg 15. Totals 20 4-8 48.
3-point goals – Griswold, Maahs, Rodberg 2.