After moving up a class last season, Minneapolis North got its first taste of the Class 2A tournament Wednesday and came away with a victory. But it wasn't easy.

The Polars (22-9), who won Class 1A championships in 2016 and 2017, defeated Esko 61-53 in the Class 2A quarterfinals at Williams Arena.

"To be honest with you, I don't know what a Class 3A, 2A … I don't know what the difference is. A win is a win," Polars coach Larry McKenzie said. "Our mission is we want to be playing Saturday. We want a 2A title, we don't want a 2A win."

Sophomore center Davon Townley Jr. hit a free throw with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left to give the Polars a 54-53 lead. They finished with an eight-point run, capped by freshman guard Willie Wilson's dunk at the buzzer. Wilson had a team-high 17 points.

North finished with 18 steals — and 22 points off turnovers — to Esko's four steals. Fast-break points were 25-2 in the Polars' favor.

"Even if we're having a bad game, and we're not scoring as much, I think our defense will pick up the slack for us," said Townley Jr., who had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Camden Berger had seven points in the first eight minutes for Esko (21-10) and helped his team take a 17-9 lead. The Polars outscored the Eskomos 8-2 to tie the score 30-30 at halftime.

"Maybe a couple possessions we just didn't really anticipate their pressure, and we got a little careless, and they took advantage of that," said Berger, who had 12 points before fouling out.