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Prep boys basketball: Esko’s Perich scores 40 in playoff win

The Eskomos’ athleticism was too much for Crosby-Ironton in the Section 7AA semifinal.

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Esko's Makoi Perich reaches up to dunk the basketball in the second half of Tuesday's Section 7AA boys basketball semifinal against Crosby-Ironton at Romano Gym in Duluth.
Brandon Veale / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Esko sophomore Koi Perich isn’t the only weapon on the Eskomos’ roster, but he was about the only one needed Tuesday at Romano Gymnasium.

Perich scored 40 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out five assists and had six steals in Esko’s 80-59 win over Crosby-Ironton in the Section 7AA semifinals.

Perich credited his teammates for going out there and making it a little simpler for him on the offensive end.

“It’s just my teammates, they make it so much easier for me,” he said. “We play fast, we play aggressive. We’re a fast team and I don’t think anyone can compete with us.”

Esko coach Derek Anderson said Perich is an intense competitor that typically brings out the best in his teammates.

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“He’s a gamer, any time there’s a competition in front of him he wants to go out there and he wants to destroy everybody,” Anderson said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work out because he tries to force some things, but I would say a majority of the time he pushes our team to bring it to the next level. Once he gets the ball in the open court, he’s very difficult to stop because he’s very strong and very fast.”

The first half started a little slow, with the teams feeling each other out and playing to a 10-10 tie in the early going.

“I think there was a little bit of playoff jitters to start,” Anderson said. “Anytime you step on the stage at UMD, it’s a little bit bigger — brighter lights and bigger crowds — but once we settled in and we got a feel for the game they did a really good job of picking up the intensity and getting after it on defense.”

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Esko's Chad Hart collects a rebound along the baseline in the second half in front of Crosby-Ironton's Will Meyer during the second half of the Eskomos' 80-59 Section 7AA semifinal victory on Tuesday, March 15, 2022 at Romano Gym in Duluth.
Brandon Veale / Duluth News Tribune

Get after it they did. After the Rangers’ Carsen Turk tied it at 10 with a 3-pointer, the Eskomos went on a 24-9 run. Perich and Cuinn Berger each had nine points in the stretch and forced Crosby-Ironton coach David Galovich to call a timeout.

The Rangers put together a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 36-29, but Perich scored seven of the next 11 Esko points and his team took a 47-34 lead into the locker room at halftime.

“One thing that really hurt us is their athleticism,” Crosby-Ironton coach David Galovich said. “We knew Koi Perich was great going to the basket, we were trying to get some help, but we didn’t really have an answer. We thought we were going to slow him down, but he’s just so athletic and quick on his feet. He follows his shot extremely well and that hurt us a lot.”

Perich had three putback baskets in the first half and several other Eskomos had second-chance opportunities as well. Anderson said his team has a goal of 15 offensive rebounds every night.

“We know when the shots aren’t falling, we had to make sure we try to get extra possessions out of it,” Anderson said.

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Esko's Nicholas Swanson reaches in front of Crosby-Ironton's Carsen Turk in an attempt to knock the ball away during the second half of Tuesday's Section 7AA semifinal at Romano Gym in Duluth.
Brandon Veale / Duluth News Tribune

The Rangers came out quick in the first half, scoring six quick points from Jordan Oehrlein and Will Meyer. The Rangers cut the lead to 49-40, but that was as close as the gap would get.

The Esko offense was impressive, but it was the defense that held Turk in check.

“We knew (Turk) is a very good ballhandler, we wanted to try to get it out of his hands without over-gambling because they also have some shooters that can knock it down,” Anderson said. “We didn’t want to get caught going to trap him and then give up a wide-open 3.”

Turk led the Rangers with 16 points and Galovich had nothing but praise for his senior point guard.

“Carsen has had an outstanding year and an outstanding career," Galovich said. “He’s good with the basketball, he penetrates — everybody knows that he’s going to handle the ball for us a lot. They’re going to put a ton of pressure on him and they did. They’ve got more depth than we have, so they can run some numbers at him, but I thought Carsen played well. He certainly gave it everything he had on the floor — he didn’t hold anything back.”

Esko (25-3) will face Pequot Lakes in Section 7AA final at 7 p.m. Thursday at Romano Gymnasium in Duluth. The Patriots (23-6) beat Moose Lake/Willow River 66-59 to advance to the championship game.

The Eskomos beat Pequot Lakes 63-50 February 8 in their only meeting this season.

Crosby-Ironton 34-25—59

Esko 47-33—80

Crosby-Ironton — Jordan Mount 6, Carsen Turk 16, Brad Hachey 2, Frank Meyer 8, Evan Miller 3, Noah Larson 2, Jordan Oehrlein 10, Will Meyer 12. Totals 23 2-5 59.

3-point goals — Mount 2, Turk, F. Meyer 2.

Esko — Koi Perich 40, Brett Lillo 2, Mason Perich 2, Nick Swanson 4, Dalton Spindler 17, Cuinn Berger 13, Chad Hart 2. Totals 31 13-14 80.

3-point goals — Berger 3.

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Crosby-Ironton's Carsen Turk is surrounded by Esko defenders in the second half of Tuesday's Section 7AA boys basketball semifinal at Romano Gym in Duluth.
Brandon Veale / Duluth News Tribune

Related Topics: PREP SPORTSBOYS BASKETBALLESKO ESKOMOSCROSBY-IRONTON RANGERS
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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