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Cloquet's Kassidy Steen scores 2 of her game high 23 points vs. Hermantown on Tuesday night. The Lumberjacks defeated the Hawks 49-46 after trailing 23-18 at halftime. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Girls Basketball Roundup: Erickson’s 3-point shot frees Cloquet late

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Girls Basketball Roundup: Erickson’s 3-point shot frees Cloquet late
Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

CLOQUET — Last Friday, the Cloquet girls basketball team toppled Crosby-Ironton 51-49 in overtime on Sammy Zeadow’s buzzer-beating layup via a Hazel Erickson pass.

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Tuesday though, Erickson couldn’t pass up the shot.

Erickson’s 3-point shot from the top of the arc in the game’s final seconds helped lift the Lumberjacks past Lake Superior Conference rival Hermantown 49-46 in an exhilarating home opener Tuesday at Cloquet High School.

Erickson, a 5-foot-6 sophomore guard, caught the ball on a play set up for classmate and good friend Kassidy Steen, but when space was created from the Lumberjacks’ picket fence set of screens, the right-handed Erickson let it fly.

“We worked on the play last night,” said Erickson, whose late triple was her only of the night, scoring 7 points. “I just happened to be there and took the opportunity.”

Hermantown had an opportunity following Erickson’s make, but Steen, a sturdy 6-foot-1 center, stole the ball away with 6 seconds remaining, only to later nail two clutch free throws to add to her game-leading 23 points. Junior guard Kaylee McMillen also didn’t miss a free throw, field goal or 3-pointer — scoring nine points — in preserving the victory.

Cloquet (3-1) has secured all three of its victories by a combined eight points. When asked how they are winning so many games in the waning seconds, Steen answered quickly.

“Composure,” she said, adding that the Lumberjacks’ narrow wins “are the best ones” to be a part of as a player.

“We’re really learning how to finish — we’re figuring it out,” added Erickson. “That’s really lifting up our spirits.”

Cloquet Coach Jeff Ojanen, in his sixth season, was spirited when talking about his girls outside the locker room following just their fourth win over the Hawks since 2008. He noted his pick-your-poison-like team has confidence.

“They respond,” said Ojanen of his team that evaporated a once 23-18 halftime deficit. “The big thing is, somebody else has stepped up every night. We’re finishing games.”

Hermantown Coach Beth Clark can’t say the same, as the 1-3 Hawks — led by Carly Hansen’s 15 points — failed to finish a game featuring four ties and eight lead changes.

The biggest change came from Erickson’s 20-plus-footer.

“It was deep — she drained it,” Clark said

afterward.

“We get caught up in wins, but it’s just fun to be a part of moments like that,” said Ojanen. “That’s why you coach — to see the kids succeed, to see the smiles on their faces.”

AREA ROUNDUP: Carlton (1-3) couldn’t keep up with Polar League host Two Harbors in a 64-30 loss Monday, just four days after the Bulldogs retained the “Little” Brown Jug for a sixth straight year last Thursday against Wrenshall. Myranda Papesh centered Carlton, scoring 25 points in the two games.

Cromwell-Wright (1-2) was edged by Polar League opponent Esko 52-46 last Thursday on the road. The Cardinals, who have only beaten East Central, were carried by Chelsea Swatek’s 12 points in the six-point defeat.

Esko (2-1) eased by host Hibbing 75-43 Saturday afternoon, as the Eskomos used their new-look balanced attack in full force. Against league nemesis Cromwell-Wright last week, Esko’s Erika Shady sent in 15 points.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe (3-0) has had recent transportation issues, according Athletic Director Earl Otis Wednesday. The unbeaten Ogichidaa, which have outscored their opponents by 109 total points in just three games, postponed their Tuesday game at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School.

South Ridge (3-3) ran into a 78-54 loss to McGregor Monday in Culver, as the up-and-down Panthers continue to look for consistency.

Wrenshall (1-5) won its first game, leaping by Lakeview Christian Academy 68-60 Monday at home. The Wrens, who led by a large first-half margin, held on behind Shana Laveau and Delaney Kittel’s 45 total points.

FDLTCC (3-6) found a 74-66 win over visiting Fergus Falls Friday on campus in Cloquet. Locals Claudia Turner, Shaelyn Halverson and Kami Diver combined for 55 points, as the Thunder are off to the women’s team’s best-ever start.

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