Prep girls basketball: Esko clamps down on Falls

International Falls girls basketball coach Shawn Gilbert happened upon a newspaper article Saturday morning touting the merits of the Esko defense, which was allowing 27.3 points through three playoff games.

Ava Gonsorowski
Ava Gonsorowski (22) of Esko takes to the air while shooting the ball during the Section 7AA championship game against International Falls at Romano Gymnasium in Duluth on Saturday evening. (Clint Austin /

International Falls girls basketball coach Shawn Gilbert happened upon a newspaper article Saturday morning touting the merits of the Esko defense, which was allowing 27.3 points through three playoff games.
“I said, ‘Well, we should be able to get past that. We should be in the 40s - we score in the 60s, 70s sometimes,’ ” Gilbert said.
But Gilbert and the Broncos haven’t seen a defense quite like the one they ran into Saturday night at Romano Gym, where the Eskomos clamped down en route to a 55-29 victory in the Section 7AA final.
Esko (26-4) overwhelmed International Falls with speed, and when that failed the Eskomos relied on 6-foot-5 center Molly Trapp, who totaled six blocks. When Trapp wasn’t swatting shots, she was altering them, creating some wild and wayward attempts from the Broncos, who didn’t get on the board until almost seven minutes had elapsed.
They trailed 27-14 at halftime.
“Coach always says, ‘We hang our hat on defense,’” Trapp said. “That’s what we do.”
Afterward, as her teammates took their turn cutting down the net, Trapp was all smiles while posing for countless pictures. Certainly, she wasn’t regretting her decision to return for her senior season after skipping last year to focus on volleyball, a sport that earned her a chance to play Division I at South Dakota State.
“I don’t regret it at all,” she said. “I’ve loved the whole ride.”
Sophomore Ava Gonsorowski scored 10 of her game-high 15 points in the first half to trigger a fast start for Esko, which shot 20 free throws in the opening 18 minutes - compared to four for the Broncos - and built leads of 9-0 and 27-9. The defending section champs were just too overpowering for International Falls (23-7), which was seeking its first trip to the state tournament since 1990.
Instead, Esko is headed back a year after its breakthrough, which followed years of heartbreak in section finals and ended with a third-place finish in Class AA.
“Last year was a little bit more emotional just because it had been a number of years that we went to the section final and hadn’t been able to win,” Eskomos coach Scott Antonutti said. “This year, I think we had expectations of getting to this game and had hopes of winning.”
Antonutti was the rare coach Saturday night to have a giant cutout photograph of his head bouncing around the stands. Those are typically reserved for star players, so the coach must be doing something right.
Friends from Fosston, where Antonutti used to teach and coach, were responsible, he said.
“I had a couple buddies show up with the big, ginormous head,” he said almost sheepishly.
Karlie Kulas scored 10 points for the Eskomos and Trapp added nine. While this one never was in doubt, a pair of quick 3-pointers to start the second half from Ashley Bergerson, who finished with eight points, made the final 18 minutes nothing more than an extended coronation.
Esko will find out this morning who it opens against in Wednesday’s quarterfinals at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
Grace Gilbert, just an eighth-grader, paced International Falls with seven points. Teagan Anderson, who was averaging about 17 points and eight 3-point attempts coming into the game, was held to just three points. She, like her teammates, rarely had uncontested shots, always a hand in their face.
“Most of our looks, even on the 3s that we made, we were on the move,” Gilbert said. “We never had a chance to set up. They played perimeter defense very well and if you get past them you’re going right into a 6-5 girl.”

Int’l Falls 14-15-29

Esko         27-28-55

International Falls - Jena Sullivan 4, Maddie Filipiak 4, Emma Gilbert 2, Teagan Anderson 3, Cassie Tomczak 1, Grace Gilbert 7, Janet Humbert 6, Libby Miggins 2. Totals 10 6-11 29.
3-point goals - Filipiak, Anderson, G. Gilbert.
Esko - Ava Gonsorowski 15, Karlie Kulas 10, Molly Trapp 9, Ashley Bergerson 8, Bailey Mudek 5, Judy Wagemaker 5, Mackenzie Holland 2, Kailee Kiminski 1. Totals 16 18-30 55.
3-point goals - Bergerson 2, Gonsorowski, Kulas, Mudek.

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