BOYS BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Team takes 'first' in Barnum
BARNUM—Walking around the halls of Barnum High School, you’ll see boys basketball players wearing their rubber maroon bracelets saying “Team first ... me second.”
The Bombers are the second-ranked team in the state’s latest Class AA polls mainly for their 18 wins — 17 in a row have come during a current 62-day unbeaten stretch — but it’s an emphasis on their team that means the most.
Barnum, the smallest Class AA team in the state with an enrollment of 198 kids, sees most of their 11 varsity players get court time nightly. Longtime Coach Rich Newman, in his 17th season, focuses his squad around his son, Brandon, as well as backcourt mate Zac Carlson, but said he rotates his other undersized starters regularly.
“Look around, we’re not big,” Newman said with a laugh at Monday’s practice. “Everybody fills their role and just plays as hard as they can. That’s how it’s always been.”
The Bombers (18-1) have been beating their opponents handily, outscoring foes by almost 30 points per evening. Their lone loss, a 46-33 setback at Polar League rival Esko Dec. 6, remains a reason to work hard and hopefully set up a Section 7AA final rematch come March.
“We’re going to have to play some good basketball if we want to get to that game,” said Newman. “We’ve won some games and we’re playing well, but we have to get better. Once we start looking forward, that’s the end of the year.”
Newman quickly dismissed any comparison with Esko.
“They’re the favorite,” he said of the state’s No. 3-ranked team which won the section and took fourth at state last year, then returned a trio of 1,000-plus point scorers.
Junior Brandon Newman surpassed 1,000 career points over Christmas break, as the 6-foot sharp-shooting right-hander is a bonafide scorer. He, along with the speedy 5-foot-9 Carlson, provides firepower for depth-laden Barnum.
“We have so many guys,” said Carlson during practice, noting “fresh legs” is a nice asset to have available for each game. “Our bench can beat most of the teams that we play.”
Six-foot, 315-pound senior Tory Slater will play football at Minnesota Crookston next fall, but in his final season of basketball, the starting center explained a team focus is vital.
“Being a small school, we know everyone,” said Slater. “Most play the same sports. We always put each other first.”
“That bracelet is a reminder,” added Brandon Newman.
“It’s in my locker,” Carlson said. “I wear it every day.”
Carlton (3-15) couldn’t keep up with host South Ridge in a 74-55 defeat Monday in Culver, three days after the Bulldogs snapped their previous six-game losing stretch with their first home win of the season over Polar League visitor Silver Bay.
Cloquet (15-3) came back to top Duluth East 66-57 Saturday, as the visiting Lumberjacks erased a 34-27 halftime deficit to win their third consecutive game and sweep the Greyhounds for the first time in recent memory.
Cromwell-Wright (4-14) was upended by visiting Mountain Iron-Buhl 87-61 last Thursday, as the host Cardinals — losers of two of their past three games — struggled in their first action back in almost a week.
Esko (17-3) eased past Polar League host Wrenshall 85-42 last Friday, as the Class AA second-ranked Eskomos —winners of four straight games — remained unbeaten and atop the conference.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (16-3) overwhelmed visiting Silver Bay 96-32 Monday in Cloquet, as the Ogichidaa — the state’s second-highest scoring team behind Class AAAA’s Hopkins — marked back-to-back victories.
Moose Lake-Willow River (12-7) relinquished their previous five-game winning streak when the Rebels lost 79-71 to Mora Monday in Moose Lake, their first defeat in 24 consecutive days.
South Ridge (15-3) ran by visiting Carlton 74-55 Monday in Culver, as the Panthers — currently on an eight-game, 26-day winning spurt — propelled to another Section 7A victory.
Wrenshall (10-8) won Monday at home over Cherry 68-61, as the single-point victory was their third in four tries, with their lone blemish being to state-ranked power Esko.
FDLTCC (6-14) fell 68-59 Saturday at Minnesota College Athletic Conference foe Hibbing, just three days after the Thunder — again in action Wednesday when the Pine Journal went to press — toppled host Itasca 81-69 in Grand Rapids.