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Prep boys basketball: Trapp becoming a force for Esko

Esko's Adam Trapp shoots over Brooklyn Center's Roland Russ (left) and Lu'Cye Patterson (right) during Saturday's Martin Luther King Classic at Duluth East High School. (Clint Austin /caustin@duluthnews.com)

Following a subpar, eight-point outing against Moose Lake-Willow River on Dec. 21, Esko's Adam Trapp did some soul-searching.

"I had a terrible game, and I sat myself down and said, 'I'm not going to let that happen again,' " Trapp recalled Saturday at Duluth East High School, where the Eskomos fell 71-68 to Brooklyn Center in one of seven boys basketball games that comprised the Martin Luther King Classic. "I'm a senior, 7-foot-3, 250 pounds, and there's no reason I shouldn't be scoring 20-plus every night. I said to myself, 'You can't go out there and play weak. You can't go out there and be soft anymore.' "

Trapp is heeding his own blunt advice. Slowed by two early fouls Saturday, he took control coming out of the break and nearly carried Esko (10-3) all the way back from a deficit that reached 15 points. Class AA No. 6 Brooklyn Center (9-3) trailed 26-25 before ending the first half on a 17-5 run.

Engaging the Centaurs in a track meet proved fruitless for the Eskomos. At halftime, coach Mike Devney implored them to slow it down, be patient and feed the big fella. Trapp Time ensued. Repeatedly catching the ball on the low block and spinning into a layup, he scored 12 points in the first six minutes of the second half.

Devney said Trapp "is playing the best basketball he's ever played" over Esko's past six games — or since the MLWR tough talk. During that stretch, the coach said Trapp is averaging between 25-27 points a night and 10-plus rebounds.

Overall, he entered Saturday with per-game averages of 21.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

"He knows we're only two months away from the end of the road," Devney said. "He wants to make every second count."

Trapp finished with 24 points against up-tempo Brooklyn Center. Camden Berger added 15 and knocked down one of his three 3-pointers from the top of the key with 4:15 remaining to whittle the Centaurs' lead to 66-65. Esko had chances to pull ahead, but never could regain the lead.

Ryan Pantsar's 3 made it 70-68 with 1:20 to go, and the Eskomos subsequently forced a turnover. But on their next possession, Trapp missed a pair of free throws, something he "felt terrible" about, Devney said. Near the final buzzer, Berger ended up with the ball in the corner, and his off-balance, long-range try sailed long.

Still, after falling behind 46-31 right after the intermission, that Esko was in position to force overtime had to qualify as a moral victory. The Eskomos clawed back into it as Trapp asserted himself. As it so often does, that had a snowball effect.

"You have double- and triple-teams, and sometimes he has four or five guys on him even," Berger said. "He can just kick it out for an easy, open 3. And if all those guys close out on the 3-point shooters, we can just get it right back to him for an easy 2."

Adreone Sprinkles led Brooklyn Center with 25 points, and Lu'Cye Patterson chipped in 21.

The Centaurs, oozing athleticism, sprinted up and down the court. They pressured Esko's ballhandlers throughout, forcing the Eskomos away from the game plan they brought in. In other words, Esko was out of its comfort zone until it regrouped and returned to its halfcourt bread and butter. That was OK with Devney, who likes matching his club up with the state's best.

Top-flight opponents expose weaknesses. Postseason prep, Devney called it. Esko's three losses are against ranked opponents.

"We want to play the best," Devney said. "It gives us some confidence if we do win the region and get to state. I'd rather have three or four losses going into regions than be 26-0 and not be able to play these guys."

Brooklyn Center 42-29—71

Esko 31-37—68

Brooklyn Center — Malik Harut 5, Roland Russ 7, Adreone Sprinkles 25, Lu'Cye Patterson 21, Rudwan Tahir 7, Qentrell Douglas 6. Totals 26 71.

3-point goals — Sprinkles 2, Patterson 3, Tahir 2.

Esko — Adam Trapp 24, Eric Rish 4, Camden Berger 15, Quinn Fischer 9, Ryan Pantsar 9, Jon Stodola 4, Corey Kauma 3. Totals 29 68.

3-point goals — Berger 3, Pantsar 3, Kauma.

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