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Prep boys basketball: Esko puts on a show in 78-36 rout of South Ridge

Brothers Koi and Mason Perich put an exclamation point on the team's dominant performance with a highlight reel backboard alley-oop dunk late in the first half.

Koi Perich shoots layup
Esko's Koi Perich goes up for a contested layup during a game against South Ridge on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 at Esko High School.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal
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ESKO — It was a play that brothers Koi and Mason Perich of Esko had only dared to try in practice.

But with a sizable lead in hand and Koi on a clean fast break with only Mason trailing behind him, the time was right to give it a shot.

“I saw him catch a pass from Nick Swanson (and) I yelled ‘Board, board’ kind of like the communication we have,” Mason Perich said. “He threw it off (the backboard) and I went up and caught it. Lots of practice let that happen.”

The backboard alley-oop dunk brought the packed gym of fans at Esko High School to their feet, and drew the praise of coach Derek Anderson.

“That was pretty cool. Obviously Mason is very athletic, so they’ve been trying to do that for a while, unsuccessfully…They do it in practice quite a bit and it hasn’t worked out too well, but tonight obviously it got the crowd pretty energetic and pumped up,” Anderson said.

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The play was one of many eye-popping moments for the Eskomos in their convincing 78-36 win over visiting South Ridge on Friday, Feb. 4. The victory pushes the club to 15-2 on the season, and extends their winning streak to six games.

“It’s been a really fun group to coach,” Anderson said. “They give each other a hard time a lot…so they can kind of goof around a little bit, (but) they still know when to take it seriously, and they do a good job of moving the basketball."

Esko’s offensive chemistry shined early on in the first half as Swanson emerged as the hot hand and was fed the ball accordingly. The senior forward’s five 3-pointers in the opening half helped propel the Eskomos to a 29-15 advantage at the midway point.

“We always talk about if somebody hits two shots, give them three. If somebody hits three, give them four. So, they do a good job of finding the hot-hand too,” Anderson said. “Tonight I think they did a nice job finding Nick (Swanson), because he hit a couple of threes early on and obviously kept that rolling.”

Cuinn Berger shoots jump shot
Cuinn Berger of Esko shoots a contested jump shot during a game against South Ridge on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 at Esko High School.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

The court remained tilted heavily in favor of Esko into halftime as guards Cuinn Berger and Koi Perich gave the Panthers fits in trying to navigate through the team's full-court pressure.

Fast break baskets came in bunches down the stretch for the Eskomos as the team closed out a dominant opening 18 minutes of play with a 32-6 run capped off by the crowd-pleasing backboard alley-oop dunk by the Perich brothers.

With an insurmountable lead in hand out of the break, Esko remained in the driver’s seat into the final buzzer in a 78-36 win.

Dalton Spindler dribbles the ball
Dalton Spindler of Esko looks to make a pass during a game against South Ridge on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 at Esko High School.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

The Eskomos will be back in action on Tuesday, Feb. 8 when the team travels to Pequot Lakes to take on the Patriots. Looking ahead, Anderson hopes to see the team continue to build on its effort on both ends of the floor.

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“I think defensively we gotta make sure we keep the intensity up and we keep playing aggressive without fouling,” Anderson said. “Offensively, we gotta keep sharing the basketball looking to find our shooters and find our guys that can score the rock. That’s going to be a big step forward if we’re able to be successful towards the end of the season here.”

South Ridge 21-15--36

Esko 51-27--78

South Ridge -- Ethan Nelson 11, Zach Morse 3, Austin Josephson 2, Aaron Bennett 14, Slayton Stroschein 6, . Totals 15 3-5 36.

3-point goals -- Nelson 3.

Esko -- Keone Anderson 2, Carter Zezulka 5, Koi Perich 23, Brett Lillo 4, Mason Perich 4, Nick Swanson 15, Dalton Spindler 1, Cuinn Berger 18, Chad Hart 4, Carter Herman 2. Totals 30 7-10 78.

3-point goals -- K. Perich 2, Swanson 5, Berger 2.

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