Prep boys basketball: Esko’s Berger scores 39 points in win over Moose Lake-Willow River
The Rebels’ Logan Orvedahl hit five 3-pointers and scored 31 points in the loss.
MOOSE LAKE — Late in the first half of Moose Lake-Willow River’s home game against Esko Friday, the Rebels trailed by just three points.
The Eskomos’ senior Cuinn Berger had scored 20 first-half points, but the final five seconds of the half belonged to senior Connor Lahti. Lahti came down the floor and drained a 3-pointer and then stole the inbound pass. He was fouled on the way back up and hit both the ensuing free throws to give Esko an 8-point lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game, which Esko won 99-89.
“We talk about executing quite a bit and I think the kids did a very good job at the end of the half executing and then Connor made a nice play stealing the inbound,” Esko coach Derek Anderson said. “That was a big momentum boost for us going into the locker room. We even talked about how we need to use that and build on it in the second half.”
On the opening possession of the second half, Berger hit his own 3-pointer to put Esko up by 11 and continue the run.
Berger ended up with 39 points and even had the ball as time ran out with many of the Esko faithful encouraging him to make one final heave to score 40. Berger said he asked the Rebels’ Logan Orvedahl if he should shoot it.
Orvedahl said no, but rethought his position when he saw how close his competitor was to 40. Berger didn’t regret not taking the shot, though.
“It was the right thing to do, it was the good sportsmanship thing to do and that’s what I’m all about.”
Early in the game it was a back-and-forth affair, with Esko taking a small lead and then the Rebels clawing back in front until Lahti’s five points at the end of the half.
Rebels coach Wes Cummins said the team wasn’t concerned about being down at halftime.
“Eight points, we can make that up in the span of about three possessions,” Cummins said. “If it starts to stretch out to 5, 6, 7 possessions, we start to get worried. It’s a game of runs and they just happened to have a run at the end."
MLWR fell behind by 14 a couple of times during the second half, but twice in the second half, they cut the Esko lead to six.
Each time the Rebels started to close, though, Berger or Koi Perich would drive to the basket or hit a shot from deep to help shift the momentum, something Berger has been doing all season for the Eskomos.
“He brings stability to us,” Anderson said. “He can score at all three levels, he can obviously stretch the floor and hit the 3 from deep, he can hit from mid-range and he can put it on the deck and get to the rim. When teams start to really focus on taking something away, he’s the guy that can step in and get us a tough bucket.”
While Logan Orvedahl had 31 points and four other Rebel players scored at least 11, they couldn’t keep pace with Berger’s 39 and Perich’s 35.
Cummins wasn’t too worried about the loss. The Rebels finally had their full roster available for the first time since the early days of the season and it will take time to get back into the swing of things.
“Conditioning was a factor today,” Cummins said. “We’d like to play faster and you could tell guys’ feet were a little slow. They haven’t touched a basketball since Dec. 28, that’s going to be a factor.”
Esko (12-2) will next play at Aitkin at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
MLWR (9-4) will travel to Grand Rapids for a game at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.