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Boys Basketball: Patriots upset Esko, advance to state

Pequot Lakes advances to the state tournament for the first time since 2007

Players celebrate
Pequot Lakes celebrates after its victory in the Section 7AA championship game against Esko, Thursday, March 16, 2022 in the Romano Gym at UMD.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

DULUTH – Thanks to a 40-point second half, the Pequot Lakes boys basketball team pulled off the upset over the top-ranked Esko Eskomos, beating them 58-50 in the Section 7AA title game on Thursday, March 17, to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2007.

“We played the whale of a basketball game that we needed to play,” head coach Rich Spiczka said. “From an ‘execution of a game plan’ standpoint, it was fantastic. From a grits, guts and refusing to quit standpoint, it was even better than fantastic. We got big plays from all kinds of different people in key spots, and you couldn’t have scripted a better second half.”

We played the whale of a basketball game that we needed to play ... you couldn’t have scripted a better second half.
Rich Spiczka, Pequot Lakes Head Coach

The Patriots found themselves down 23-18 at halftime and 45-36 with just over six minutes left to play. However, the Patriots cruised to the end with a 22-5 run, which included a diving save by Nic Kotaska that found Ryan Harmala for an easy layup.

“They just kept playing,” Spiczka said. “They didn’t think they were out of it. They just go get it.”

Grant Loge led the way for the Patriots with 16 points, while Harmala added 11 and Kotaska had eight.

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Player dribbles up the court
Eli Laposky of Pequot Lakes dribbles up the court during the Section 7AA championship game, Thursday, March 17, 2022 in the Romano Gym at UMD.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

The Patriots head into the state tournament winning nine of their last 10 games.

“It comes down to execution and buying into what we are doing,” Spiczka said. “In the four playoff games we won, we won them all in different ways with a different scheme … We feel like we have a lot of tools and we just have to use whichever tool is available and working best.”

The Patriots were scheduled to face Annandale at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday, March 22, for the opening round of the Class AA State Tournament.

“At this point, you kind of are what you are,” Spiczka said. “It’s just what tools are you going to use the most … I just want our kids to appreciate where they've gone and enjoy the moment for a little bit.”

Pequot Lakes 18-40—58

Esko 23-27—50

Pequot Lakes — Ryan Harmala 11, Nic Kostaska 8, Cruz Megazzini 2, Gavin Kennen 2, Brayden Spiczka 4, Grant Loge 16, Karson Thurlow 2, Eli Laposky 6, Sam Rysavy 7. Totals 21 12-21 58.

3-point goals — Harmala, Loge 3.

Esko — Carter Zezulka 2, Koi Perich 12, Mason Perich 4, Connor Lahti 3, Nick Swanson 9, Dalton Spindler 5, Cuinn Berger 12, Sam Haugen 3. Totals 16 9-13 50.

3-point goals — Mason Perich, Lahti, Swanson 3, Spindler, Berger 2, Haugen.

Player takes a jump shot
Grant Loge of Pequot Lakes puts up a shot during the Section 7AA championship game against Esko, Thursday, March 17, 2022 in the Romano Gym at UMD.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

Patriots 66, ML-WR 59

Eli Laposky scored a game-high 23 points as the Patriots topped the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels in the Section 7AA semifinals on Tuesday, March 15.

Loge and Sam Rysavy each had 12 points in the victory for the Patriots, while Kotaska added eight of his own.

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Moose Lake-Willow River 19-40—59

Pequot Lakes 25-41—66

Moose Lake-Willow River — Logan Orvedahl 22, Phil Sheetz 9, Duane Broughton 6, Sam Dewey 11, Chance Lunde 2, Alex Watrin 9. Totals 22 7-15 59.

3-point goals — Orvedahl 5, Sheetz 2, Dewey.

Pequot Lakes — Ryan Halmala 1, Nic Kotaska 8, Gavin Kennen 8, Brayden Spiczka 2, Grant Loge 12, Eli Laposky 23, Sam Rysavy 12. Totals 26 11-16 66.

3-point goals — Loge 2, Laposky.

Players pose with trophy
Members of Pequot Lakes pose with the Section 7AA championship trophy, Thursday, March 17, 2022 in the Romano Gym at UMD.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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