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News about Cloquet and other area boys basketball teams

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DULUTH — Perhaps Maxx Brenner best indicated the Cloquet boys basketball team’s performance Monday when the starting guard sat on the bench midway through the second half and could only run both hands through his hair.

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Frustration was common among the entire row of players, as the Lumberjacks were steamrolled by St. Cloud Apollo 64-40 in part of the inaugural Martin Luther King, Jr. Classic Monday afternoon at Romano Gymnasium in Duluth.

Cloquet clearly couldn’t duplicate the Eagles’ game-long intensity. Behind their court-length pressure, efficiency around the basket and boisterousness throughout their team, Apollo created 18 Lumberjacks turnovers and never lost momentum.

“We just didn’t match their intensity,” said Brenner, a senior, holding a bag of ice in his hand after the 24-point loss.

“That’s the worst I think we have played in probably two years — we had no energy,” added Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia after the game. “You just can’t lollygag through things. We’re not good enough to just show up.”

The Class AAA Eagles were up only 27-20 at halftime, but a right-side rebound and put-back by Michael Ashwill before the buzzer brought Apollo to team-wide cheers again.

“We definitely had the momentum,” said senior center Jeremy Koffi after scoring a game-leading 17 points along with teammate Ethan Novacinski.

“We got fired up and came out with the W,” added Koffi, who blocked a Jake Bushey layup to preserve a 28-27 lead.

Cloquet (12-3) led just once, in the first half, as Apollo (11-6) sprang on a 19-0 run over six-plus minutes, including an old-fashioned 3-point play by Novacinski off the glass that fouled out Lumberjacks center Adam Laine —14 points — for the first time all season with 7:17 left, and brought all 18 Eagles players into fierce screams.

“That’s the way we try to play,” said Apollo Coach Dean Kesler, about his fierce team.

Kesler — the event’s coordinator with Minnesota Breakdown Sports — helped organize the 12-team, six-game and 10-plus-hour-day of basketball. He didn’t take the bus home with his rowdy team after the two-day trip to Duluth.

“I don’t even want to know,” said Kesler, with a laugh.

What Battaglia knows is his Lumberjacks need to wake up following two losses in a four-game week with no excuses.

“We’ve been bad the last three or four times out,” he said. “We’re in a funk and have to get out. [Today was] brutal.”

“We have to refocus,” added Brenner. “We just weren’t good. I don’t know how else to put it.”

AREA ROUNDUP:

Barnum (14-1) buried Polar League host Cromwell-Wright 89-40 Tuesday, as the Class AA eighth-ranked Bombers breezed to their 13th consecutive win, remaining unbeaten now for 48 straight days.

Carlton (2-11) couldn’t keep up with visiting Hill City 70-57 Monday and the Bulldogs — losers of three straight games — remain winless on their home floor.

Cromwell-Wright (3-13) was waxed by Polar League visitor Barnum 89-40 Tuesday, just four days after the Cardinals’ nine-point win over Cook County.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe (12-2) outran both Red Lake, 78-77, and Cristo Rey Jesuit, 81-57, last Friday and Saturday, as the Ogichidaa — the state’s highest-scoring team — went unbeaten at the mid-season Bemidji Winter Jam.

Moose Lake-Willow River (10-6) ripped past Duluth Marshall 76-44 Tuesday. The host Rebels racked up their third straight victory, outscoring their opponents by 107 in that time.

South Ridge (11-3) ran by Lakeview Christian Academy 91-67 Tuesday in Culver, as the Panthers pounced to a fourth consecutive win while sending a Section 7A statement.

Wrenshall (7-7) was beaten again Tuesday in an 87-61 setback at Chisholm. It was the Wrens’ second straight and sixth in their past seven attempts.

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