Boys basketball teams ready for playoff runs


March 8, 2024

While the girls basketball playoffs are entering their final stages, the boys sectional tournaments finally kicked off this week. The Pine Knot News offers this overview of local boys basketball teams and the potential matchups over the next week.

Section 7A

South Ridge entered the tournament as the No. 8 south seed and had a play-in game on Monday against No. 9 seed Floodwood. The Panthers handled the Floodwood Polar Bears by a score of 71-30. The victory moves the Panthers into a second-round game at 6 p.m. Thursday against the No. 1 south seed, Carlton/Wrenshall, in Wrenshall. The winner will advance to the quarterfinal round at 11 a.m. Saturday in Hibbing at Miners Memorial Building against the winner of the Hill City and McGregor game.

Cromwell-Wright picked up the No. 2 south seed and will open play at home in the second round at 6 p.m. Thursday against No. 7 seed Cook County. Should the Cards win, they will play in the quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Hibbing against the winner of the Fond du Lac vs. Northland game.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe garnered the No. 6 seed in the south. They play No. 3 south seed Northland at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Remer. The winner plays in Hibbing at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against Cromwell-Wright or Cook County.

The semifinals are set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Hibbing with the championship at 7 p.m. Friday, March 15, also in Hibbing.

Section 7AA

No. 1 seed Esko opened play against No. 16 seed International Falls Monday in a lopsided affair, with Esko winning 96-43 over the Broncos. Top scorers for Esko included Zander Gabel with 20 points, Dalton Spindler with 17 and Jackson Peterson with 10.

“I thought we started out a little sluggish,” said Esko coach Derek Anderson. “We had stretches where we played well, but I think our effort can improve and be better for a complete game.”

Esko advances to the quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9 against No. 8 seed Marshall in Hermantown.

No. 4 seed Moose Lake/Willow River also opened play on Monday with an 81-67 win over the No. 13 seed, Proctor. Adam Neumann led the Rebels with 23 points, while Eli Youngs and Nolan Nelson pumped in 22 points each.

“We started the game fairly strong out of the gates with good defensive intensity,” said Rebels coach Paul Dewey. “I did not feel we played very well as a team and we were a bit selfish with the basketball. That will have to improve if we are going to continue in the playoffs.”

Next up, the Rebels will meet next-door neighbor Barnum, the No. 5 seed, in a quarterfinal game. Barnum narrowly slipped by No. 12 seed Hinckley-Finlayson 58-55, also on Monday.

“We were glad to get the win,” said longtime Barnum coach Rich Newman. “It was a close game for the entire game. Then with about seven minutes to go, we went on a scoring burst to go up by 10 with about three minutes to go.”

A few missed shots later, and the Jaguars were able to get within striking distance. Then a key drive to the basket by Carlos Beckstrand resulted in a basket and a free throw to secure the win.

Barnum was led in scoring by Bryce Ferguson with 18 points and Brock Hurst, who added 11 points.

“I feel like we are playing good basketball right now,” Newman said. “Our defense has gotten better and we are shooting the ball with confidence. We just need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and making the right decisions.”

The Bombers and Rebels face off at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 9 against ML/WR in Hermantown.

Winners of the quarterfinal round will face off against each other on Wednesday, March 13 at the University of Minnesota Duluth, with the championship to be played Friday, March 15, also at UMD.

Section 7AAA

The lone local team in the area in 7AAA is Cloquet. The Lumberjacks opened play on Wednesday night as the No. 6 seed and played at No. 3 seeded North Branch. The Lumberjacks lost. Read that story in next week's Pine Knot News.


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