HIBBING -- You can't win if you can't score.
After seizing a 29-28 halftime lead, the Pequot Lakes Patriots were limited to nine points in the second half and went on to lose 49-38 to the Esko Eskomos in the semifinals of the Section 7, Class 2A boys' basketball tournament Thursday.
The Patriots and sixth-ranked Eskomos virtually matched each other basket for basket in the first half before Esko's defense became a factor.
Center Don Liimatainen was responsible for much of Esko's stalwart interior defense. The 6-foot-3 Liimatainen limited 6-5 Luke Schramm, the Patriots' leading scorer with a 17.8 average, to nine points on 3 of 11 shooting.
"I watched Schramm pour in 27 against Crosby-Ironton on Saturday and I was thinking, 'How in the heck are we going to stop this kid because he's big, he's rangy, and we don't have the height to get up with his long arms on his shot," Esko coach Mike Devney said. "I thought Don did a tremendous job on him."
Pequot Lakes was outscored 13-2 in the third quarter and made only three baskets and three free throws in the second half.
The Patriots finished 15 of 51 (29 percent) from the floor. Andrew Christensen, with 11 points, all in the first half, was the only Patriot in double figures.
"We had some shots early inside that we didn't put down and that hurt us," Patriots coach Garry Grewe said. "We didn't get any transition baskets, no offensive putbacks, no free throws. We couldn't get any points any way."
Schramm's putback with 6:08 left in the third tied the game for the final time, 31-31. Esko scored the next 10 points for a 41-31 edge but the Patriots refused to fold.
The Eskomos became a bit complacent in the fourth while waiting patiently for layups, and Pequot Lakes scrapped within 42-37 with 6:26 remaining on a Jeff McCulloch bank shot. But the Patriots were outscored 7-1 thereafter.
"I thought we played fairly well defensively," Grewe said. "We did pretty much what we wanted. What did they get for points (21 in the second half)? We didn't play bad defense either. They had a few more scoring opportunities they took advantage of."
Esko forward Matt Townsend made the most of his opportunities, scoring a game-high 21 points. He had 14 at halftime and finished 8 of 13 from the field.
The defeat ended Grewe's first season at Pequot Lakes with a 17-9 record.
"I had a lot of fun," Grewe said. "It was a great group of kids to work with. I think we competed well in the Mid-State Conference. Obviously, we were a factor in our section. We were one of the better teams in our section. It just wasn't our night."
Pequot Lakes 13 16 2 7 -- 38
Esko 14 14 13 8 -- 49
Andrew Christensen 11, James Baumann 2, Cody Nelson 4, Chad Foster 8, Luke Schramm 9, Chris Clasen 2, Jeff McCulloch 2. Team totals: FG 15-51 (29 percent), FT 6-7 (86 percent). Overall -- Finish 17-9.
Jason Vinje 4, Jade Oberg 8, Matt Townsend 21, Gavin Erickson 7, Don Liimatainen 5, Micha Schultz 4. Team totals: FG 19-41 (46 percent), FT 9-14 (64 percent). Overall -- 27-2.
3-point baskets -- PL 2-12 (Christensen 2), E 2-14 (Townsend 2). Fouled out -- Nelson.
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