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The ticker: A quick look at area teams in action


March 13, 2020

Section 5A





The season ended Saturday for the Cromwell-Wright boys basketball team following a 65-51 loss at the hands of Hinckley-Finlayson in Section 5A play in Braham. The Cards reached the quarterfinals by beating Swanville 64-52 Thursday, March 5.

The Cards held a 23-21 halftime lead against Swanville.

“We were ahead two at the half, despite not playing a very good half and Micah (Pocernich) sitting the last five minutes after picking up his third foul,” Cards coach Bill Pocernich said. “In the second half, we settled down a little bit, and Micah and Gage Zoeller — our only two guys that had tournament experience — really took over offensively to build a double-digit lead early in the second half, which we maintained throughout. We turned it over too much in the first half and were very jittery. We calmed down a bit in the second half and were able to get the victory.”

Micah Pocernich finished with a game-high 28 points while Gage Zoeller finished with 19 points.

“They did a great job. Gage took over in the first half when Micah had to go to the bench with fouls, then Micah got us going in the second half ” Pocernich said. “They did a great job in leading the team through a difficult experience.”

Also scoring for the Cards were Garrett Zoeller (8), Ethan Shelton (6) and Taye Anderson (3).

On Saturday the Cards luck ran out — despite having a nine-point halftime lead over the Hinckley-Finlayson Jaguars.

“We played very well defensively in the first half. Offensively, Micah carried us in the first half with 20 points,” Coach Pocernich said. “They came out in the second half in a diamond-and-one on Micah, but they shadowed him with a second defender anywhere he went. We got good shots from our other players behind the arc and some good opportunities in the high post area, but simply couldn’t score. Micah struggled to get any space and other guys struggled to make shots.”

To compound their problems the Cards — who played brilliant defense in the first half — began to struggle on that end of the floor in the second half.

“The good things we did defensively in the first half also faded in the second half,” Pocernich said. “We allowed too much dribble penetration and offensive rebounds which is something we stressed in game prep and did a great job of in the first half.”

While Micah Pocernich had a big first half he scored just nine in the second half. Unfortunately, the rest of the Cardinals struggled to give offensive help. Pocernich finished with 29 in the game while Taye Anderson and Garrett Zoeller each scored six. Also scoring were Gage Zoeller (5), Zevvus Smith (3) and Ethan Shelton (2).

“They had good, active big guys and I think everyone played a bit tentative offensively at times,” Pocernich said. “It had something to do with a unique defense in the second half, and something to do with playoff jitters.”

The loss ended the season for the Cards who finished with a record of 20-5.

“It was a great season. After the last two years we had, we had a target on our backs,” Pocernich said. “Despite graduating five seniors from our rotation a year ago, we went 10-0 in our conference, 20-5 overall. We did this despite only two guys in our seven-man rotation having any real varsity experience. I am very proud of the season we had. Everyone had to fill a pretty specific role and star in that role for us to be successful. They bought into that and succeeded in that .”

Pocernich averaged 25.3 poinhts per game, 7.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He graduates as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,942 career points. In his three years as a starter the team went 29-1 in conference play, 68-17 overall, won two subsection championships, one section runner up, and had one state tournament appearance.



Hinckley-Finlayson overcame a slow first half start to eliminate a pesky Barnum squad in the first round of the Section 5A boys basketball tournament Thursday night in Hinckley. The game was rugged and physical, a style of play that the Jaguars seemed to like as they notched a 55-48 victory over the Bombers.

“It was a defensive battle and a very physical game that didn’t favor us,” said Bomber coach Rich Newman. “We also got in foul trouble early and that didn’t help.”

The first half was a tightly played affair with both teams clamping down on the other with tenacious defense. At the intermission the Jaguars led 22-16. Braiden Davis led the Bombers with nine points at the break while Cedric LaFave led the Jaguars also with nine points at the half.

Both teams broke loose in the second half.

“We were down by double digits and then we put on a trapping defense,” Newman said. “We clawed our way back into it and got it to within one, but we just couldn’t convert on some key shots and situations.”

While Davis had the hot hand for Barnum in the first half, Blaze Hurst picked up the scoring for the Bombers in the second. After being held to just two first-half points, Hurst put up 14 points in the second half to finish the game with 16 points.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, LaFave stayed hot the entire game, adding 16 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 25 points. Even more unfortunate for the Bombers was the fact that LaFave was also a disruptive force defensively — causing even more problems for Barnum on that end of the floor.

“He is a solid guard and good defender,” Newman said. “We fouled him a lot at the end and he didn’t miss a free throw.”

In all, LaFavre made 11-of-12 free throws in the second half and finished with a run of eight in a row without a miss. For the game the senior was 13-of-14 from the charity stripe. Dylan Miller and Lathanial Kroschel both added 10 points for Hinckley-Finlayson.

For the Bombers, Davis finished with 10 points to go along with the game-high 16 from Hurst. Also scoring for Barnum were Reed Kornovich (6), Joe Peterson (5), Jake Hultgren (4),Willie Richards (3) and Garrett Coughlin and Matthew Berry (2) each.

The Bombers will graduate just three players from this year’s team including Hurst and Davis. They finish the season with a record of 11-17.

“Blaze had a good year and played hard every game. He logged a lot of minutes and that’s hard for a big guy. He was one of our main scorers and led our team in rebounding,” Newman said.

Section 7a

Fond du Lac-92


Fond du Lac-95

Deer River-74

The Fond du Lac Ogichidaa advanced into the section 7A semifinals Saturday afternoon when they defeated Deer River 95-74 in the section quarterfinals in Hibbing.

The Ogichida pulled away late in the contest as they avenged an early season loss to the Warriors in the 21-point victory.

“We have been playing really well,” said head coach Earl Otis. “We are very young and thought we might be a year or so away from making a run, but the kids have stepped up their game and are playing like seasoned pros.”

The Ogichidaa seem to be peaking at the right time of the year. They have won 12 of their last 14 games, and are the third highest scoring team statewide in Class A. Deer River — the team FDL beat Saturday — was the second highest until the Ogichidaa beat them.

FDL opened tournament play last Thursday at home, when the Ogichidaa beat Chisholm for the second time this season with a 92-77 win. Jordan Brown connected on nine 3 pointers enroute to his game high 40 points for the Ogichidaa. Connor Barney added 27 points in the win, while the Bluestreaks Jude Sunquist tried to keep Chisholm close with a team high 39 points in the loss.

Coming off the 35-point victory Thursday, the Ogichidaa were confident heading into the section quarterfinals against Deer River. The Ojibwe used a balanced scoring attack with four players in double figures to pick up the win. Connor Barney finished with a game high 26 points, while his teammate Jordan Brown chipped in with 25. Simon LaPrairie finished with 20 and Jalen Paulson added 14. Ty Morrison led the Warriors with 24 in the loss.

“(Because of) how well we have played and with our full team, I knew we could beat Deer River,” Otis said. “Deer River can really shoot the ball, but we shot the daylights out Saturday. We need to stay hot against Nashwauk on Wednesday.”

The Ogichidaa will face the section’s top-seeded Nashwauk-Keewatin Spartans Wednesday in Hibbing as this issue of the Pine Knot News went to press. The section finals are set for Friday night, also in Hibbing.


South Ridge-66



The Carlton Bulldogs season came to an end Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs fell to defending Section 7A champion Northwoods Grizzlies by a score of 88-63. This quarterfinal loss to Northwoods was fresh off an upset win over South Ridge on Thursday night in Culver by a margin of 69-66.

In Saturday’s quarterfinal, the Bulldogs battled tough in the first half against the defending section champs. In the end, 28 turnovers cost the Bulldogs any chance of their second straight upset.

After trailing by five points at the end of the first half, the Grizzlies TJ Chiabotti scored 20 of his game high 26 points in the second half.

“We tried to keep it close in the first half so we could make a run in the second half, but TJ sort of took over the game with his steals and forcing us into unforced errors so we never could manage to cut into the lead,” Coach Shawn Filipiak told the Pine Knot News.

The Bulldogs were able to keep it close in the first half with hot outside shooting from beyond the three-point line, but the Bulldogs cooled off in the second half — only connecting on two three pointers compared to the seven they hit in the first half.

“They created offensively,” Filipiak said. “They attacked the basket in the second half, putting them on the free throw line where we settled a lot for trying to bury the three.”

Northwoods was 18-30 from the free throw line where Carlton was 5-10.

Ben Soderstrom led Carlton with 14 points, while Matt Santkuyl and Justin Swanson each added 11 points in the loss.

The Bulldogs finished the season 13-14 overall.


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