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Growing pains afflict Cloquet girls


December 20, 2019

Players for Cloquet and Hermantown scramble for a loose ball Tuesday night during a game in Cloquet. The Hawks breezed by the Lumberjacks 73-47. Amber Nichols / Pine Knot Sports. More photos on

A very young Cloquet girls basketball team is learning on the fly this season and on Tuesday night the 'Jacks faced Hermantown, one of the best teams in the area. The Hawks came away with a 73-47 win over the Lumberjacks in Cloquet after building a big halftime lead.

The Lumberjacks, who have just one senior on their roster, had trouble slowing down the Hermantown duo of Elly Schmitz and Bryton Kukowski, who had 23 and 17 points respectively. Schmitz hit four 3-pointers in leading the Hawks offense.

"We knew we couldn't match them [man-to-man] the whole game - they just have so many weapons," said Cloquet head coach Heather Young. "So we changed things up and zoned some and then matched up other times. We were trying to keep them a bit honest in the scoring end. Schmitz and Kukowski just are two solid players for Hermantown that capitalized on opportunities that we gave them and sometimes those opportunities we created due to our lack of communication."

Hermantown raced out to a 22-point halftime lead, but the Lumberjacks played them nearly even in the second half.

"They transition well and are fast," Young said. "We tried to tell our girls just to get back and stop the ball every time we shot. Only go into rebound if you were sure you could get it. If Hermantown got the rebound, it was off to the races and we had to figure out how to respond to that the best way we could."

The second half, the youthful Lumberjacks were outscored by just four points and managed to control at least one of the big two scorers for Hermantown.

"Really, there weren't many adjustments on our end in the second half. We just tweaked a couple things on defense and our offense," Young said. "Schmitz had 21 points in the first half and ended with 23, so we were able to contain her more. Snesrud did a nice job on her. It was just that they had more weapons to pull out and use."

Despite the loss, the Lumberjacks had five players who nearly scored in double figures. Alexa Snesrud led the 'Jacks with 12 points, both Gracie Meagher and Maddie Young had nine points and Katie Turner added eight points. Rounding out the Cloquet scoring were Kate Owens with six points and Justice Paro with three points.

"The scoring was nice to see on our end. Offensively, we have struggled and it has been only one to two players really contributing, and those two players have been the same two: Young and Snesrud," coach Young said. "So, even though we didn't win, we saw improvement in other players on the floor bringing some scoring to the table, and that is a step in the right direction."

Of the players who scored, Owens is the lone senior. Snesrud is a freshman, while Young, Paro and Turner are all sophomores and Meagher is a junior.

"We do have a younger group; however, with that being said, it is still just playing basketball, which all of these players have done for many years," coach Young said. "We won't lower our expectations to meet our goals. We are definitely taking some lumps, which I feel are character-builders in the end."

Perhaps the biggest efforts by the coaching staff will be to keep the young team on the same page and not getting discouraged.

"You hope that your players don't like the feeling of not playing well or together. You hope they keep that hunger inside of them, wanting it each time, but you can't coach that," Young said. "That has to come from them. I have a great staff who believes in these kids. The hope is we are playing our best competitive basketball at the end of our season."

The loss drops the Lumberjacks to 0-5 on the season.


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