MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ekso’s top scorers differ slightly on how long they’ve played together and how long they’ve been itching to win a state championship game — Marc Peterson says since fourth grade and Kory Deadrick says sixth, when fellow senior Casey Staniger arrived in town.
Regardless, it was a long time coming after years of second-place finishes, which made Saturday’s 60-41 win over Annandale on Saturday for the Eskomos’ first-ever state 2A title all the more sweet.
“If you look back in those sixth and seventh and eighth-grade Pacesetter tournaments, we took second every year,” Deadrick said, his first-place medal hanging around his neck after the game. “It was like, ‘in the championship, we ain’t going to do that again tonight.'”
Peterson scored 16 points and Deadrick added 14. Staniger had 13 for the Eskomos (29-3).
Deadrick, the school’s all-time leading scorer, was well below his 25.9-points-per-game average coming into the tournament, but Esko had a well-balanced offense in the rematch of last year’s third-place game, a 1-point win by Annandale (25-7).
“We knew any given night, any given one of us — me, Kory or Casey — can put up 25, 30 points a night,” Peterson said. “So if one guy’s cold, we just get it to the next guy. It’s tough guarding three legit scorers.”
Now, Esko coach Mike Devney has the unenviable task of trying to replace all three of those legit scorers.
“The cupboard’s not going to be bare next year, even though we lose three thousand-point scorers, but it’s going to be tough to replace,” Devney said.
Matt Miller led Annandale with 10 points, but no other Cardinal scored in double figures. The Cardinals led early and stayed within striking distance for much of the game until a 16-4 run by Esko put the game out of reach. A 3-pointer by Tanner Olean cut Esko’s lead to 38-32 before the Eksomos’ game-turning run.
With his red-eyed players slowly filing out of their locker room, Cardinals coach Skip Dolan tried his best to put things in perspective.
“A lot of coaches will say this is what you live for, this is why you do it. This isn’t why I do it,” Dolan said. “I do it because I want to develop quality young men that can be quality people in the communities and learn discipline in their life.”
Still it’ll be hard to say goodbye to his seniors.
“When Matt Miller and I had that hug at the end, we knew that this is the end of something that has been special,” the coach said.
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