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'Jacks move to 11-2 after busy week

In November, the Cloquet and Esko girls basketball teams opened the season with the Lumberjacks sneaking out a 3-point home win. Last week on Thursday, the two teams met again last Thursday - in Esko this time - and the Lumberjacks somehow pulled out a 58-57 win, despite the fact that Esko appeared to play a better game.

"They outplayed us, but we still managed to find a way to win," said Cloquet head coach Heather Young. "There were times where we would get up by four points and then they'd get ahead by four or six. It was a game that we never felt comfortable with."

Esko coach Sue Northey also felt the game was a seesaw affair that could have gone either way.

"For us, we are still learning each other," said Northey, in her first year back as head coach. "We are making huge strides, but we still have a lot to figure out."

Cloquet secured the win with a key offensive play by Alexa Snesrud after the senior missed a couple free throws that would have given the 'Jacks the lead.

"Alexa is an unbelievable leader and a great competitor," Young said. "We ended up getting the ball back and Alexa got a shot up that gave us a one-point lead, but I knew Esko would still find a way to make a run at us."

Esko did just that. With seconds remaining, the Eskomos were able to get an inbounds pass from under the Cloquet basket. Esko got the ball into the hands of Cairin Berger, who got off a shot at the buzzer that fell off the front of the rim to give Cloquet the win.

"We had a chance at the end," Northey said. "Alexa (Snesrud) made a great play, and she goes so hard to the hoop, and then we had the chance at the end but it just fell a little short."

While the 'Jacks won, Young was impressed with the atmosphere and the Eskomo squad.

"The atmosphere was incredible," Young said. "Esko just shoots the ball so well and we struggled offensively. We were able to make free throws when we needed them, and those are game changers."

While Esko was outscoring Cloquet from the field, the Lumberjacks' ability to get to the line turned out to be a significant difference. Cloquet went 16-of-21 from the line while Esko was 8-of-13.

"Cloquet goes hard to the rack and they get to the line," Northey said. "We are still learning about what it takes to play at the varsity level, and our key is building skill, learning our identity and putting in the work, and we are seeing improvement."

Snesrud led Cloquet with 20 points, followed by Ava Carlson with 15 and Kiley Issendorf with 13. Quinn Danielson added five points, Lauren Hughes finished with three and Macie Majerle chipped in two.

Leading Esko was Hannah Swanson with 13 points, both Kyra Johnson and Avery Kuklinski finished with 12 points, and Berger recorded six points. Kaitlyn McConnell added five, Kallie Sinnott pitched in four, Erin Pettyjohn finished with three, and Cadence Berger scored two.

On Monday, both Cloquet and Esko were back in action as the Lumberjacks defeated St. Francis, 65-45, and the Eskomos knocked off a tough Proctor squad, 51-49. Cloquet improved its record to 11-1 with the win over St. Francis (1-7), and Esko is now 5-4. Snesrud and Carlson led Cloquet with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

"All four of our losses were against good teams," Northey said. "Two of those losses were against a Cloquet team that is 11-1 and the other two were against Mountain Iron-Buhl and Crosby-Ironton, which are two very good teams. Those tough games will make us better as we continue to learn our identity."

As far as completing a sweep over their next-door neighbor, the Lumberjacks were happy to come away with a pair of wins.

"I just have so much respect for Sue, because she does such a good job with her program," Young said. "We need to be a bit more patient on offense at times, but as long as we can play defense like we do, we should be able to compete in every game we play."

Crosby-Ironton 83, Cloquet 62

The Cloquet girls basketball team hit a speed bump on the road Tuesday, seeing its record fall to 11-2 after a busy stretch of games.

Alexa Snesrud scored 21 and Ava Carlson 18, but the 'Jacks trailed throughout as Crosby-Ironton (6-4) got a 36-point effort from Tori Oehrlein to go with five three-pointers from Hannah Compton.

The Lumberjacks are in action again Monday at 11:45 a.m., when they face Academy of Holy Angels (8-3) as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

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