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Lumberjacks boys take title at own tourney

The Cloquet boys basketball team capped off the Wood City Classic last Wednesday by winning the championship game 78-72 over a feisty Pine City squad at Cloquet Middle School gymnasium.

“The tournament went well,” said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia. “We had youth medal nights with the girls on Tuesday and the boys on Wednesday, so the evening sessions were well attended. For the coaches and players, it’s really nice to get some games in without having to leave town.”

Against Pine City the Lumberjacks gained the early advantage and staked themselves to a 40-32 halftime lead.

“I am happy overall with how we’ve played, but we’ve had so much inconsistency within our lineup due to injury and the Covid situation that we’ve been a little more basic in what we do,” Battaglia said. “However, sometimes simple can be good too.”

Alec Turnbull led Cloquet with 19 points, but he got a lot of help in the scoring department as Marco Mayorga chipped in with 17 points, Conner Barney added 16 and Seth Rothamel added 12 with four players in double-digit scoring for the ’Jacks.

The win improved the Lumberjacks record to 6-4. That includes a three-game win streak that started with a road win at Denfeld before Christmas.

In the second half against the Dragons, the Lumberjacks struggled at times in taking care of the ball, but not enough for Pine City to take the win.

“We go through stretches of games where we don’t take care of the basketball, our turnovers have made some games closer than they should’ve been,” said Battaglia. “That’s stuff that will hopefully get better. Some of it can be attributed to guys playing more minutes than they should be, but that should improve as we get guys back from injury and illness.”

One key player who returned to the Lumberjacks lineup recently is Kollin Bonneville, who was injured during football season.

“Bonneville is back and he makes a noticeable difference because he’s really a good defender that will help us because we’ve struggled a bit with some match-up issues,” said Battaglia. “He can also score and gets us moving in transition. We’re also expecting Reese Sheldon back in the lineup this week. Barring a setback, he should get minutes at Aitkin on Thursday night.”

While it would have been nice to have Bonneville and Sheldon available, the ’Jacks have been able to rely on other players who have gained a ton of experience and game action, which in the long run, should help their depth come playoff time.

Rounding out the scoring against Pine City were Caleb Hanson with six points while Bonneville and Joe Bailey each had four points.

Girls take third

After stumbling in the opening round of the Wood City Classic basketball tournament last week, the Cloquet girls basketball team bounced back with an impressive win over Virginia to grab third place in their own tournament.

The ’Jacks came out with a vengeance after falling to Mesabi East the previous night and raced out to a 48-35 lead after the first half of play, ultimately beating the Blue Devils 78-61.

“We were able to score 48 points due to the fact that our girls ran transition and everyone contributed on the floor,” said Cloquet head coach Heather Young. “Those things really help when they are consistently done. And our girls now see the success they can have, when they are consistent with the offense, defense, and the choice making.”

While the Lumberjacks were pouring in the first-half points the Blue Devils managed to score 35 first-half points themselves, led by Rian Aune.

“Aune was tough from the outside as well as the inside,” Young said. “She really carried their crew. We knew, however, we had more experience. Virginia works hard and they are physical.”

Key to Cloquet’s success was balanced scoring: 10 players scored in the game with four in double digits. Maddie Young led the squad with 16 points, Ava Carlson added 14, it was Justice Paro scoring 13 and Quinn Danielson added 10 points to round out the double-digit scorers for the ’Jacks.

“It was so great to see all of our players score, and even though to our team it’s not a huge deal. Getting the win is what’s important,” Young said. “Secondly, it was nice to see more than one or two girls in double figures for us. I felt like the girls had a really good rhythm going and that helped contribute to the success of putting the ball into the hoop as well as making key defensive stops.”

Also scoring for Cloquet were Alexa Snesrud with nine points, Caley Kruse with six and Kiley Issendorf with five. Both Katie Turner and Addison Thompson had two points and Macie Majerle had a single point.

Rian Aune was the scoring leader for the Blue Devils and the top scorer in the game with 28 points.

Mesabi East ended up with the championship by beating Crosby-Ironton 62-60 in double overtime on Wednesday.

Cloquet’s win pushes their record to 7-3 on the season.

As for the tournament itself, Young was impressed with how things ran throughout the two day event.

“This is just such a fun tournament to have, with lots of history behind it and it’s really nice to be playing at home if you have to play over the Christmas break,” said Young. “We have so many great people who step up and help out to make this tournament one that teams want to come back for.”

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