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Lumberjacks stem a losing slide

After starting the season with eight straight wins, the Cloquet girls basketball team was flying high, then on Dec. 27 things changed. That was the first day of the Wood City Classic basketball tournament. The 'Jacks fell, 48-41, and that started a seven-game swoon that left the team reeling.

"I thought the final game we played prior to our tournament against St. Francis that something was not right," said Cloquet coach Heather Young. "Even though we won that game you could see we were not doing what we had done earlier in our win streak."

Cloquet opened its own Wood City Classic against Mesabi East and lost, and that's when the team started to struggle.

"Offensively, we couldn't hit the ocean if we were standing on a pier," Young said. "After that we just seemed to be battling ourselves."

That loss set in motion a seven-game losing streak for a team that has high expectations this season.

"We came off a great summer of basketball," Young said. "Our girls fall sports teams all had success, so we felt, and still feel, that this experienced group has a lot of potential."

Young and her coaching staff kept positive during the losing streak as they tried to identify what changed so dramatically.

"It was a case of losing our rhythm on offense and taking too many shots too quickly and then having to come back and play defense for most of the game, so we were exhausted," Young said.

On Jan. 19, the Lumberjacks hit the road and came out and played a strong game against Hibbing, picking up an important road win, 55-38, over the Bluejackets that ended the team's slide.

"We struggled a little in the first half, but then we got better and better as the game wore on," Young said.

Eight players scored against Hibbing and the Lumberjacks defense held the Bluejackets to only 16 points in the second half.

"We saw better patience and we had better ball movement," Young said. "We also saw better cuts off screens. We are quick as a team and can get transition baskets."

Another big key for the 'Jacks was their ability to get to the free throw line and then convert those into points as they went 18-for-26 against Hibbing.

On Tuesday, the Lumberjacks notched a second win in a row by downing Superior, 62-55, in Superior. They were led in scoring by Lelani Fonoti, who had 17 points, Ava Carlson with 15 and Quinn Danielson with 13. The game was tied at 26 at halftime, but the Lumberjacks then pulled away for the win.

The 'Jacks are now 10-7.