Prep boys basketball: Perich scores 29 in Esko’s home-opening win over Cloquet – Duluth News Tribune

ESKO — Early in the second half, Esko’s Koi Perich scored three straight buckets in transition to power a 10-1 run to start the half and put the Eskomos up 18.

Perich finished with 29 points and Esko cruised to a 72-55 home-opening win over Cloquet Friday.

It was a fine finish for Perich, but he spent much of the first half on the bench with foul trouble.

“He’s obviously a very strong, athletic kid,” Esko Coach Derek Anderson said. “So he plays aggressive, which is part of what makes him so successful on the court, but with that comes him being overly aggressive and gambling sometimes when he shouldn’t. The good thing is, he has a lot of practice playing with fouls from last year, so it’s nothing new to him.”

After returning to the game with three fouls, Perich proceeded to score 19 second-half points and, despite playing solid defense, he didn’t pick up another foul.

Cloquet’s Kollin Bonneville tries to drive past Esko’s Cuinn Berger during the Eskomos 72-55 win on Friday.

Amy Arntson/Duluth News Tribune

“We were pretty good in that half-court both offensively and defensively,” Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia said. “Their trap got us in trouble, clearly, and we turned the ball over, particularly in the second half, but Koi Perich is a stud. You can do your best on that, but he’s going to do stuff that’s hard to coach, it’s hard to scheme against what he’s going to do, he’s just so doggone Athletic and tough.”

The Eskomos started slow, particularly with Perich’s foul trouble, but as shots started to fall from long range, Lanes to the basket started opening.

Esko beats Cloquet 72-55

Esko’s Sam Haugen goes up for a layup over Cloquet’s Marco Mayorga during the Eskomos’ win on Friday in Esko.

Amy Arntson/Duluth News Tribune

“The 3s started falling,” Perich said. “We had a lot of turnovers, that’s something we’ve got to improve on, but we started dishing the ball out more and, overall, just moving the ball up the floor faster and faster. When we can speed them up, that’s where we play best.”

Cuinn Berger hit a pair from long range to help open up the floor, with Perich and Zander Gabel each hitting one.

Cloquet senior Marco Mayorga led the Lumberjacks with 20 points and played well in the low post, despite standing 6 feet tall.

Esko beats Cloquet 72-55

Cloquet senior Marco Mayorga lines up a jump shot during the Lumberjacks’ 72-55 loss to Esko on Friday in Esko. Mayorga led Cloquet with 20 points.

Amy Arntson/Duluth News Tribune

“He’s a 6-foot big man,” Battaglia said. “He’s mastered the spin moves, he’s got great touch, he can shoot the ball from midrange and even 3s — he’s a good Offensive basketball player, he’s going to keep us in games.”

Anderson was happy with the way his team played, but noted there are still places to improve.

“We want to obviously keep attacking the rim and close some of those driving lanes up to create space for the shooters, so we have some work to do,” Anderson said. “We still got guys that are getting used to playing with each other yet, it’s early in the season. We want to be a little more crisp on the Offensive end and part of that is our spacing is still a little off with guys not having a lot of game minutes playing with each other yet.”

Cloquet (0-3) has had a Brutal schedule to start, with games against Hermantown, Duluth East and Esko — all teams that will be in contention for a section crown by the end of the season.

Esko beats Cloquet 72-55

Esko’s Dalton Spindler, right, and Cuinn Berger, 20, try to take the ball from Cloquet’s Joe Bailey during the Eskomos home win on Friday in Esko.

Amy Arntson/Duluth News Tribune

“This was no easy introduction with a new team,” Battaglia said. “We have a lot of guys who haven’t played varsity basketball before, but we’ve gotten progressively better. I’ve seen things I liked in each game, but we just haven’t had a completed game yet — certainly we’ve not been good enough to compete with these good teams. But I told our guys I’m pretty well convinced by March we’re going to be pretty good, it’s up to them if that happens sooner. Is it by Christmas or January or do we wait until March?”

Esko (2-0) will play at Grand Rapids at 7 pm Monday.

Cloquet will play at North Branch at 7:15 pm Thursday.

Cloquet — Jack Battaglia 7, Joe Bailey 7, Kollin Bonneville 14, Seth Bonneville 2, Malachi Bridge 5, Marco Mayorga 20. Totals 19 16-24 55.

3-point goals — Battaglia.

Esko — Carter Zezulka 4, Koi Perich 29, Sam Haugen 4, Dalton Spindler 4, Cuinn Berger 17, Braedyn Male 11, Zander Gabel 3. Totals 29 11-17 72.

3-point goals — Perich, Gabel, Berger 2.

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