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'Jacks overwhelm Hawks

A quick start helped propel the Lumberjacks girls basketball team past Hermantown 71-46 in the Section 7AAA semifinals Friday.

"It was nice to see our girls start out strong," said Cloquet coach Heather Young. "Sometimes we struggle to get going right away; however, these girls realize the opportunity they have. They know they need to play their best to continue to move on. Hermantown is always a tough team to go up against. I am just really proud of our girls who were able to finish the job."

The Lumberjacks got a big night from post player Ava Carlson, who scored a game-high 22 points. Senior Alexa Snesrud was also in double digits with 15 points.

"Ava has been so solid for us for many games now and her jumping ability is amazing," Young said of Carlson, also a hard-hitting volleyball player. "She's got a nice touch in the paint and she just works so hard."

The Lumberjacks had to find a way to deal with Hermantown senior Liv Birkeland, who scored 19 points.

"We knew Birkeland came into this game shooting well," Young said. "She's so quick on both ends of the floor. We put Kiley Issendorf, one of our best defenders, on her, hoping it would tire her out a bit. She's a player we knew who would score and get the ball. We just wanted to challenge her. I feel we did that - but she still got 19 on us because she's that type of player."

Macie Majerle scored 10 points for Cloquet, Issendorf finished with nine, it was eight for Lauren Hughes, and Quinn Danielson added 7 points. Young said the win was an impressive display of team basketball.

"It was nice to see this first playoff game be a real team win," said Young. "Everyone played and contributed in some fashion. Our players truly demonstrated how to make someone else better. Whether it was the passing, rebounding, defensive stops/steals, or scoring - it all contributed to making each other shine a bit. It's a nice feeling to have going into the finals on Thursday."

The 'Jacks ability to play defense has been key to their success this season. Friday night at Cloquet Middle School was no exception as they held the Hawks to under 50 points.

"We hope we are known mostly for our defense when it comes to basketball," said Young. "Our girls work hard defensively and I feel (they) challenge most teams we see."

The win put the Lumberjacks in the Section 7AA championship game against Grand Rapids for the second year in a row, a game set for 7 p.m. Thursday (after the Pine Knot went to press) at Duluth Denfeld.

Cloquet is looking to turn the tables and win their way to State this year.