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Esko eliminates Green Wave 57-54 in OT

East Grand Forks' Ben Bjornson (33) shoots over a pack of Esko defenders during the first half of Wednesday's Class 2A state quarterfinal game at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Joe Brown/Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS — Esko had beaten opponents by an average 33.6 points a game. The Eskomos were the No. 2-seeded team in the Minnesota Class AA boys state tournament.

For East Grand Forks Senior High, however, there was no satisfaction in being close.

“It’s still a big disappointment,” Green Wave senior Jim Warmack said. “We thought we could beat them.”

Senior High was close. It took overtime, but Esko edged the unseeded Green Wave 57-54 here Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. The outcome advances Esko (27-3) to the semifinals. Senior High, playing in the state tournament for the first time since 1971, closed at 20-10.

The 6-foot-7 Warmack’s 3-point basket with 16 seconds left in regulation tied the score at 51 and forced overtime.

The score remained 51-51 until, with 1:43 remaining, Esko took the lead for good when Kory Deadrick drove the lane for a basket, was fouled and hit a free throw.

“It was instrumental to get a lead at that point,” Esko coach Mike Devney said. “Both teams were worn down. To get the lead put pressure on the other team. And we started to hit some free throws.”

Rabid ending

After Warmack hit two free throws to cut the deficit to one, Esko hit four straight free throws.

Ty Misialek answered with a free throw for the Wave and, after an Esko turnover, the Wave missed two late threes, the second on a shot from the corner by Grant Frydenlund that was on the rim and rolled off. “Anytime Grant shoots a three, we think it’s going in,” Wave coach Travis Lindgren said.

Warmack gave Senior High an advantage early, scoring the Wave’s first 12 points for a 12-6 lead. “Jim came to play,” Lindgren said. “We wanted to get him the ball early and force them to adjust.” The Green Wave never relinquished the lead in the first half, which ended with Senior High ahead 26-25.

“That big guy, he killed us early,” Devney said. But reserve Jacob Lindstrom came in and became more of a physical presence on Warmack and, with the Esko defense double- and triple-teaming Warmack, the senior was at least slowed.

“Lindstrom was hurt and didn’t come back until mid-January,” Devney said. “We needed his bulk and strength. Defensively, he was the difference tonight.”

An 8-0 run early in the second half gave Esko a 33-28 lead. The Eskomos increased their advantage to as many as six and still led 50-45 with 1:34 left.

But Micah Friez hit a free throw and drove the lane for a basket while Esko was off the mark on four of five free throws, setting up Warmack’s tying trey.

“We felt we had momentum (going into overtime),” Misialek said. “We got some stops. But they were able to put the ball in.”

Warmack had a double double with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead Senior High, with Frydenlund adding nine points. Deadrick had 24 points, Marc Peterson 16 and Casey Staniger 11 as they combined for 51 of Esko’s 57 points.