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Lumberjacks can't hold off hot Hibbing shooters


March 13, 2020

The Cloquet boys basketball season skidded to a stop last Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Section 7AAA tournament. The Lumberjacks hung tough in the first half against Hibbing, but eventually fell 72-60.

“They just kept hitting shots,” said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia. “We did a great job of limiting shots from their stars, but they had a couple of role players hit big shots for them.”

At halftime the Lumberjacks trailed 40-36 and appeared poised to pull off an upset. Unfortunately, the Bluejackets got a big performance from Ayden McDonald with 23 points, plus three other players for Hibbing who hit double digits in scoring.

“McDonald is a good players and is very smart,” Battaglia said. “He hit some big shots from mid-range that hurt us.”

Adam Schneider turned up the scoring barrage for Cloquet with 27 points and Alec Turnbull added 12 points, but they were the only two players in double digits for the ’Jacks. Schneider also hit his 1,000th career point during the game.

“Adam may have played his best game of the year,” said Battaglia of Schneider. “He’s come a long way this year. He’s always been a scorer, but he was very efficient against Hibbing. I think we will see him become more of a complete player next year and he’s already very good.”

Also scoring for Cloquet were Tyler Issendorf and Dylan Heehn with six points each plus five for Jack Sorenson. Both Nate Blatchford and Caleb Hansen had two points apiece.

“As a team we came on a little late this year,” Battaglia said. “We lost four games in a row in mid-January and a total of six games that we had a chance to win and didn’t win any of them. Give us four to six more wins and we could be talking about a 15-win team that returns everybody next year. We also struggled to find rotations and get comfortable with personnel as Markus Pokornowski, our lone senior, dealt with injuries. In the end the kids played hard every night and I’m excited to have everyone back next year.”

As mentioned, the lone senior was the athletically talented Pokornowski, who missed much of the season due to injuries and was not on the floor during the end of the season or in the playoffs.

“He is a tough kid and a great athlete,” Battaglia said. “Unfortunately his basketball career was interrupted by injuries every year. He was really good when he was healthy; he had the ability to be a great one if injuries didn’t get in the way.”

Despite the lean season for wins, the fact that the Lumberjacks roster will all return next season is cause for excitement.

“Everybody returns next year and I’ve never had that,” Battaglia said. “We should have eight seniors on our team next year and then we’ll backfill with some juniors. Most good teams are senior-dominated and I’m excited about the makeup of next year’s team.”

Cloquet finished the season with a 9-18 record.


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