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Lumberjacks hold on in OT

A little over two weeks ago, the Cloquet boys basketball team throttled Duluth Marshall by 22 points in a home win. On Monday night, the 'Jacks managed to sneak away with a 77-66 overtime road win over the Hilltoppers despite an off night on offense.

"We were lucky to get a win," said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia. "We shot poorly, we were undisciplined on offense, and on defense we didn't do a good job of swarming to the basketball."

Swarming to the ball was needed Monday because Duluth Marshall's 6-foot-6 junior sensation Brooks Johnson went off for 35 points as he controlled most of the game.

"He's a special player and the real deal," Battaglia said. "He will be playing college ball on scholarship somewhere after he graduates."

Cloquet trailed 38-37 at halftime and the game seesawed back and forth throughout, but the turning point came early in overtime when Cloquet junior Jack Battaglia and Johnson, who were both playing with four fouls, collided as Johnson drove to the basket.

"We got lucky on the call, because they called Johnson for a charge and that took him out of the game," said Coach Battaglia. "It could have gone either way, and either way each team would have lost a key player."

While Johnson led his team in scoring, Jack Battaglia was doing the same for Cloquet, as both he and Seth Rothamel had 19 points to lead the 'Jacks in scoring on the night.

"Offensively I thought Rothamel and Shazae Henagin, who had 18 points for us, played well for us on offense," said Battaglia. "Defensively, we got some great play from Noah Hansen and Joe Bailey as well as Rothamel."

After Johnson dominated with 19 first-half points - many of which came on offensive rebounds - the Lumberjacks decided to take turns between Bailey and Rothamel guarding the physically imposing Johnson.

"I do think we did a little better job on him in the second half," Battaglia said.

After Johnson fouled out, the 'Jacks were able to slowly pull away in overtime to nab a hard-fought victory on the road.

Joining the score sheet for Cloquet were Hansen with 8 points, Bailey with seven and Max Sundquist with 6 points.

The game was the only game for the 'Jacks this week. Next week they will hit the tail end of the season schedule as they play three games starting with a home affair on Tuesday against Grand Rapids. On Thursday, the Lumberjacks will head to Duluth Denfeld, and on Saturday they travel to Norwood-Young America, 20 miles west of Chaska.

"Hopefully we can become more consistent and get out of this rollercoaster ride where one night we are really good and other nights not so much," Battaglia said. "Most nights we are outsized on the boards. We can score, but we struggle with stopping people, so we need to get better on that side of the ball, and hopefully this three-game stretch will help us."

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