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Esko shoots lights out in 88-77 win over Superior

The Eskomos shot 10-for-21 from beyond the arc to best the Spartans.

Esko’s Carter Zezulka (2) slips past Superior’s Evan Moreau (3)
Esko’s Carter Zezulka (2) slips past Superior’s Evan Moreau (3) in the first half of the game in Superior on Thursday evening, Jan.13, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A challenge issued by Esko coach Derek Anderson imploring his team to get back to shooting with confidence was met with resounding success in a matchup against Superior Thursday, Jan. 13.

The Eskomos launched 21 shots from beyond the arc and knocked down 10 in an 88-77 win over the Spartans to improve to 10-2 on the season.

The challenge by Anderson came as the team had previously shown signs of hesitation in its willingness to take shots in recent contests.

“We’d gotten to a point in the season where kids were catching it and were sort of hesitant. They were jabbing and they weren’t quite sure if they should shoot it or not,” Anderson said. “We’ve been going with the motto of shooters shoot, and we told them if you catch it and you’re ready to go, launch that thing. They came out tonight and they obviously did a pretty good job with it.”

The Spartans were equally sharp from the 3-point line, with 12 made field goals from deep. In spite of the shooting success, Superior coach Kory Deadrick said the team’s lack of energy proved to be the difference in the outcome of the back-and-forth game.

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“We looked really tired. We didn’t play at the level that it takes to beat a good team,” Deadrick said. “I was a little disappointed with our energy. We let them do a lot of the things that they do, and we didn’t take enough of the things they do well away.”

Superior’s Robert Olson (21) scores over Esko’s Nicholas Swanson (13)
Superior’s Robert Olson (21) scores over Esko’s Nicholas Swanson (13) in the first half of the game in Superior on Thursday evening, Jan.13, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The first half of Thursday’s tilt saw a frenzied scoring pace with both teams shooting lights out from all areas of the floor. Robert Olson was the go-to scorer for the Spartans with 14 of his 22 points coming in the opening 20 minutes of play.

Behind Olson’s red-hot start, Superior opened up a 15-9 lead that was whittled down to 20-19 moments later as leading scorers Cuinn Berger and Koi Perich came alive for Esko.

On back-to-back possessions, Berger showed off his unlimited range with back-to-back 3-point field goals from way downtown to give the Eskomos the lead for the first time at 24-21, a lead they never relinquished.

Anderson said he encourages his players to keep shooting as they show signs of heating up.

 Esko’s Cuinn Berger (20) dribbles past Superior’s Jake Kidd (15)
Esko’s Cuinn Berger (20) dribbles past Superior’s Jake Kidd (15) in the first half of the game in Superior on Thursday evening, Jan. 13, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“That one was a heat check. (It was) a little bit deeper than we would like him shooting from but he made a few in a row before that,” Anderson said. “We tell the shooters any time that you’ve made a couple in a row, let's get three. If you’ve made three, let's get four. So he had it in rhythm.”

Esko carried a 41-32 lead into halftime and kept its foot on the gas pedal out of the break as Dalton Spindler knocked down three straight shots early to help push the Eskomos to their largest lead of the game at 56-44.

Superior’s Jake Kidd (15) collides with Esko’s Makoi Perich (3) as he scores
Superior’s Jake Kidd (15) collides with Esko’s Makoi Perich (3) as he scores in the first half of the game in Superior on Thursday evening, Jan.13, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Superior’s Evan Bennett, who scored 14 of his 18 total points in the second half, was the catalyst for the Spartans comeback attempt that brought the team back to within five points in a 65-60 score.

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An inability to keep Esko away from the charity stripe prevented Superior closing the gap in the end, though, as the Eskomos finished with 22 points overall from the free-throw line to help seal the 88-77 win.

Deadrick acknowledged that the team ran out of gas in the second half with the team still missing one of its rotational players and unable to make the necessary substitutions.

“Defensively, it wasn’t our best game and we needed it versus a team like that,” Deadrick said. “They put up a lot of points. I mean we gave up 88 tonight. For our guys, it’s going to be tough to win if we give up 88 points.”

Esko’s Nicholas Swanson (13) grabs a loose ball in front of Superior’s Evan Bennett (22)
Esko’s Nicholas Swanson (13) grabs a loose ball in front of Superior’s Evan Bennett (22) in the first half of the game in Superior on Thursday evening, Jan.13, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The loss drops the Spartans to 8-5 this season. They’ll look to rebound on Tuesday, Jan. 18 when they hit the road to take on New Richmond. Esko will travel to Denfeld High School for its next matchup against the Hunters on Tuesday.

Esko 41-47 —88

Superior 32-45—77

Esko — Koi Perich 26, Connor Lahti 5, Dalton Spindler 10, Nick Swanson 10, Cuinn Berger 25, Mason Perich 12. Totals 28 22-28 88.

3-point goals — Berger 4, Mason Perich 2, Swanson 2, Lahti, Spindler.

Superior — Robert Olson 22, Jake Kidd 9, Evan Bennett 18, Shane Leask 14, Jeffery Olson 8, Caden Bresnahan 3, Daynen Lull 2, Tanner Swanson 1. Totals 28 9-14 77.

3-point goals — Leask 4, Bennett 2, Jeffery Olson 2, Robert Olson 3, Bresnahan 1.

Related Topics: ESKOSUPERIOR
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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