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Cloquet fourth-graders win state championship

The Cloquet fourth grade girls traveling basketball team won the Tier 6 Grade State tournament on Feb. 25.

It was a team effort, said coach Ann Lindner. For the most part, the playing time was equal and each player brought something to the table.

"They all have such an important piece to the puzzle," Lindner said. "Without any of them, it would not work. They all deserve a shout out."

Lindner's background was also a contributing factor to the girls' win. She played basketball at Cloquet High School and then at Minnesota State University Moorhead, then moved back to Cloquet after college. Along with coaching basketball, she is a sixth grade teacher at Cloquet Middle School.

When Lindner first got hired in Cloquet, she coached JV basketball. When she became pregnant with her daughter, Evie, (who is now on the fourth grade team), she stepped away because of the time commitment. It was not until her daughter was in kindergarten that Lindner started coaching again.

Out of 26 girls who tried out for this traveling team, 10 were chosen based on their ability, knowledge of the game, effort and positive attitude.

Another contributing factor to their success is having the same coach for five years. Lindner has been coaching these girls since they were in kindergarten. This is the team's first year of travel ball.

The girls started with very minimal skills and knowledge of basketball and now, just a few years later, are refining those skills and not only developing a bond on the court, but creating a great relationship as a team.

"Five-year-olds compared to nine and ten-year-olds, they have developed mentally," Lindner said. "They have started to play more as a team."

For about three and a half months, with one practice a week and games almost every weekend, the girls have spent a lot of time playing basketball together this season. They also double dipped in local games, adding two more practices and two games a week to their schedule.

About half of the girls go to a different elementary school than the others. Next year, they will all attend the same middle school.

"I love the fact that they have this bond together to give them a foundational friendship," Lindner said.

Lindner said the level of play was a lot different this year compared to what they have seen before, but that they have really stepped up to play.

"A lot of growth, mentally and maturity wise, as well as ability and confidence wise," Lindner said. "They proved that hard work and dedication and keeping a positive attitude helped them win Grade State for their tier."

Lindner is very proud of every girl on the team.

"They should keep their heads up high," she said.

 
 
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