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Lumberjacks face early season tests

If the Cloquet boys basketball team was looking for a tough schedule to start its season, the Lumberjacks found it.

The Lumberjacks opened on Friday, Dec. 2 against Hermantown, a state tournament team last season, and will play Duluth East and Esko on Friday. All three are expected to be in their respective sectional finals again this season.

"It certainly is a tough way to open the season," said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia.

In Friday's opener against the Hawks, the Lumberjacks got a chance to see last year's Section 7AAA champions, a team that returned all five starters this year, and Hermantown did not disappoint as they beat Cloquet 90-55.

"They look like they are already in mid-March form," said Battaglia. "We had some sickness and didn't get a chance to have everyone healthy during the week, so that played a hand in our struggles."

The Hawks opened quickly and built a 50-25 halftime lead by using their speed and finesse.

"They wanted to run and move the ball and we played into their hands in the first half," said Battaglia. "Things were within a point for the first 12 to 14 minutes, but then they went on a big run at the end of the half to pull away."

While the Hawks were doing what they like to do, the Lumberjacks were trying to figure out their identity.

"We just didn't play well in that first half and I could have done a better job as well," said Battaglia. "Marco (Mayorga) had a big game for us and we started to run our offense through him more in the second half."

Mayorga, a senior forward, finished with 29 points for Cloquet. Reese Sheldon added eight, with Jack Battaglia scoring five, and Kollin Bonneville and Malachi Bridge four points each. Jordan Aultman added three points, and Izaiah Carrier finished with a pair of points.

"I thought Jack did fine as a sophomore and Reese was solid for us," said Battaglia. "Kollin will be a very good player for us, but he was trying to carry the scoring more than he has had to in the past and he'll be just fine as the season wears on. I learned a lot about our team in that first game, and I am optimistic we will see a lot of improvement."

Abe Soumis was one of four Hawks to score in double digits. Soumis led the Hawks with 20 points, Keaton Christianson added 17, Blake Schmitz recorded 16 and Blake Sundland also was in double digits with 14 points.

"They really are a team that doesn't play any specific position; they are interchangeable parts," Battaglia said. "It was a tough team to open against, but it showed us a lot as to what we need to work on."

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