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Girls Basketball: Patriots must avoid another cold spell vs. Eskomos

One thing the Pequot Lakes Patriots must avoid in Saturday's Section 7-2A championship game against the Esko Eskomos is another scoreless stretch. When the teams played Feb. 13 at Esko, the Patriots led 50-43 but got outscored 12-0 in the final e...

One thing the Pequot Lakes Patriots must avoid in Saturday's Section 7-2A championship game against the Esko Eskomos is another scoreless stretch.

When the teams played Feb. 13 at Esko, the Patriots led 50-43 but got outscored 12-0 in the final eight minutes and fell 55-50. "We better play 36 minutes or we'll be going home early," Patriots coach Jon Dale said Friday.

Both teams are 26-3 and rolling at the most opportune time as they get ready for the rematch at the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Romano Gym.

The Eskomos lost three of their first five games of the season but have won 24 straight. They are the 2-time defending 7-2A champions.

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Section 7-2A championship

  • Who: Pequot Lakes Patriots (26-3) vs. Esko Eskomos (26-3)
  • When: 7 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Romano Gym, University of Minnesota-Duluth

--- Esko is sparked by 5-foot-3 junior guard Ava Gonsorowski who averages 16 points and by 5-9 junior Selena Shady who averages 10. Bridget Yellin, a 6-1 freshman, leads the Eskomos on the boards.

"We know what they do," Dale said, "and I'm sure they know what we do. They're led by Gonsorowski. She's their floor general and scorer and is a really good defender. We know what we're getting into.

"They're not one-dimensional by any means. We feel they have more than just (Gonsorowski). We feel Shady's a threat. Obviously we'll have to have an eye on her."

The Eskomos froze Mesabi East 67-43 in Thursday's semifinals at UMD. Gonsorowski scored 20 points and Mackenzie Holland, Macy Sunnarborg and Yellin each added eight.

"I was impressed with Holland," Dale said, "and I thought their big kid (Yellin) has come a long way since the start of the year. I think she's much improved. She's played a lot of JV and now she's starting-at least she did (Thursday)."

In the Feb. 13 game, Gonsorowski scored 15 and Yellin, Mandi Dincau and Shady each tallied eight. Haley Wiebolt led the Patriots that day with 17 points, Olivia Lane contributed 15 and Corina Ruud and Sam Littman each scored eight.

In Thursday's section semifinal, the Patriots handled International Falls 68-51 as Wiebolt scored 20, Lane 14, Karli Skog 12 and Ruud nine.

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Pequot Lakes has won eight in a row since the loss at Esko. Wiebolt, a senior point guard, leads the Patriots in scoring with a 22.7 average followed by Lane, a 5-11 freshman, with 14.1 and Ruud, a 6-foot junior, with 12.3.

Wiebolt shoots 80 percent at the foul line and 47.5 percent from the floor. Ruud is shooting 58.3 percent from the field and Lane 51.2.

Lane is the team's leading rebounder with 11.2 per game followed by Ruud with 9.0. Wiebolt averages 7.2 assists and 3.0 steals. Ruud has rejected 76 shots and Lane 36.

Pequot Lakes is seeking its fourth trip to state in six years. The Patriots won Section 8-2A titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014 before getting assigned to 7-2A this season.

Saturday's rematch will be between teams that were most likely on a collision course. Esko has the fourth-higest Quality Results Formula in Class 2A while Pequot Lakes is No. 8. Esko was ranked ninth in the final 2A poll and Pequot Lakes 10th.

"We were obviously the two strongest teams in 7-2A just by looking at the QRF or whatever they judge us by," Dale said. "But we've had to play other games. You don't want to take anything away from Mesabi East or International Falls but we pretty much knew we would be playing each other. It was just a matter of when."

 

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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