Cloquet squeaks out playoff W with defense


March 10, 2023

Dave Harwig

Cloquet's Jack Battaglia drives the baseline earlier this season.

Winners of four straight games, the Cloquet boys basketball team is headed to the Section 7AAA semifinals against Hermantown, after a 40-35 road win over Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

The Lumberjacks trailed 21-18 at halftime, before getting double-digit scoring efforts from Jack Battaglia (11), Seth Rothamel (10) and Marco Mayorga (10) to squeeze out a playoff win.

"I was really proud of our defensive effort - we didn't allow very many second chances," head coach Steve Battaglia said. "To hold a team to 35 points is outstanding. I'm sure it was an ugly game from the standpoint of the fans, as there was no offensive flow to the game at all. It was a slow, methodical game with both teams trying to limit mistakes."

There was a total of only 10 three-pointers hit in the game, six from Grand Rapids. Cloquet hit only 10-of-22 free throws in the win, compared to 6-of-8 for Grand Rapids.

Battaglia went on to say that winning playoff games on the road is "very difficult."

His team will have another chance on Friday, March 10, when Cloquet travels to Hermantown for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Hermantown is the top seed in the tournament, Cloquet the No. 5 seed. Grand Rapids was the fourth seed. But Cloquet (14-13) is playing its winningest stretch of basketball at the right time.

"I'm just really happy for our seniors and our whole team," Battaglia said. "Now we get a shot at the No. 1 seed in Hermantown on Friday night. We'll have to be close to perfect in all phases of the game to keep it close."


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