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'Jacks enjoy home court, hardware

The Wood City Classic boys basketball tournament featured two top local teams. Cromwell-Wright came into the tournament undefeated as one of the area's top Class A teams, while Cloquet entered with a 3-4 record after opening with one of the toughest schedules in the area in Class AAA.

Tournament play began as the Cardinals took the floor against the larger Cloquet school. In the end, the Lumberjacks pulled away to an 80-56 win on Dec. 27. The 'Jacks went on to win their second game as well in the tournament and captured top honors in their own home tournament.

"Cromwell is a very well-coached team every year, so you know you will have your hands full," said Cloquet head coach Steve Battaglia. "In the end, our size and depth wore them down a little bit."

Jack Battaglia led Cloquet with 25 points while Seth Rothamel scored 17. Shazae Henagin was also in double-digits with 16 points as was Joe Bailey with 12. Max Sundquist added 8 points for Cloquet and Evan Rothamel chipped in 2.

The title game saw Cloquet easily dispatch the Pine City Dragons, 92-54, as Jack Battaglia popped in 22 points, followed by Henagin and Seth Rothamel with 19 each.

"Cloquet posed some difficult matchups for us and we didn't respond very well to that on the defensive side," said Cromwell coach Bill Pocernich. "Offensively, we were OK, until we got loose with the ball in the second half for a four to five minute stretch when the game got away from us."

Cromwell-Wright also had three players in double-digit scoring. Leading the Cards was Dylan Nyberg with 17 points, followed by Lane Gervais and Brady Dahl with 11 each. Also scoring for Cromwell-Wright were Tanner Collman (9), Drew Nyberg (6), Carson Hill (3) and Jack Irving (2).

Game No. 2 of the tournament for Cromwell-Wright featured a matchup with Mesabi East, and the Cards rebounded nicely with a 70-53 win.

"I thought against Cloquet, and in the first half against Mesabi East, we were too soft defensively," Pocernich said. "That improved in the second half against Mesabi East. That is an area we need to be better at, and more consistent with, as we go forward this season."

The Cards held a 39-29 halftime lead against the Giants, then pulled away to a 17-point win in the second half.

Dylan Nyberg again led Cromwell with 26 points while both Collman and Dahl had 14 points. Drew Nyberg scored 7, Gervais 5, and Tucker Korpi had 4.

In Cloquet's title matchup against Pine City, Joe Bailey was also in double-digit scoring with 13. Max Sundquist finished with 6 points, Noah Hanson added 5, and James Wilmot, Elijah Aultman, Grant Biebl and Evan Rothamel each scored 2.

"Pine City is down a bit this year after having a long run of really good teams," Battaglia said. "We were able to get a lot of reserves some good playing time in the second half."

Battaglia was also happy that the tournament was well-run and went off without any problems.

"It is always nice to stay home during the holidays and play some basketball," Battaglia said. "Cromwell always travels well and they bring in a lot of fans who help to give the gym a great atmosphere, and so do Pine City and Mesabi East."

Back in regular season action Tuesday, Cloquet was bounced by Barnum on a last-second basket, 75-74.