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News about Cloquet boys basketball and other area teams

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CLOQUET -- After his second surgery on his right shoulder last August, Victor Foxx's surgeon sorrowfully told him that he couldn't play basketball this winter.

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"They said there was no way," Foxx recalled.

Yet, after a physician's second opinion from the Mayo Clinic, the Cloquet senior was the one who got in the way of standout Alex Illikainen during the Lumberjacks 51-29 win at rival Grand Rapids last Thursday.

Foxx, an undersized 6-foot-1, 165-pound forward off the bench, was brought in last week when sturdy Cloquet center Adam Laine received two fouls in the first eight minutes.

There, playing in the middle of the Lumberjacks' 2-3 zone defense, impressed teammates watched Foxx frustrate one of the state's top players in the 6-foot-9 junior Illikainen. The heavily recruited (by Division I teams) center had only 15 points -- half his nightly average -- in the Thunderhawks' first loss.

"It was a tall order, obviously," said ninth-year Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia of positioning the reserve Foxx to shadow the standout Illikainen's every move. "But you have to have guys who embrace those roles. Victor was huge."

Foxx finished with three points last week, making his first shot in contributing to Cloquet's 27-15 halftime lead, but admitted offense wasn't what the unbeaten Lumberjacks (3-0) needed to thwart third-ranked Grand Rapids (3-1).

"My job was defense," said Foxx. "I'll do whatever my team needs me to do."

That team is "deep," Battaglia said after Monday night's practice, noting players like Foxx and company could channel Cloquet back to the Section 7AAA final this March -- maybe meeting with the six-time defending champion Thunderhawks for a fourth time over the past six seasons.

"We have a lot of gaps to fill if we want to give them a game in March, if we get that chance," 11th-year Grand Rapids Coach Dan Elhard said. "They look big and strong."

"The more guys that can contribute, the better we can succeed," said Cloquet junior Zach Gerlach, who poured in 15 points behind Laine's game-leading 16.

"After knocking us out last year, that feeling was awesome," said junior Nate Weets of the Lumberjacks' 22-point victory.

Almost as awesome as the way Foxx faced Illikainen.

"I'll never forget guarding a guy eight inches taller than me," Foxx said. "I just didn't want to miss my senior year."

"Lucky for us, he got cleared," added Battaglia.

AREA ROUNDUP:

Barnum (1-1) postponed its game with Pillager Tuesday due to cold weather. Last Friday, the Bombers lost at Polar League rival Esko 46-33 where Brandon Newman notched 17 points.

Carlton (0-3) continues winless -- their last loss by 42 points to visiting Floodwood last week -- as the Bulldogs begin to prepare for the historic Brown Jug game against rival Wrenshall on Friday night.

Cromwell-Wright (1-3) was upended by visiting East Central 58-53 Monday, as the Cardinals couldn't duplicate their girls' earlier win.

Esko (3-1) exploded past visitor Duluth Marshall 99-24 Tuesday. Kory Deadrick had 27 points for the Class AA third-ranked Eskomos and Marc Peterson poured in 20 points to eclipse 1,000 on his career.

Moose Lake-Willow River (2-1) recorded its second straight win, slipping by section foe Virginia 68-63 Tuesday on the Iron Range.

South Ridge (3-1) ripped past Cook County 87-44 Tuesday in Culver. Drew Janke -- named an All-State Nine-Man football receiver earlier that day -- propelled the Panthers with his 22 points.

Wrenshall (5-1) whacked the Poplar Wis. Bullets 61-43 in Poplar Tuesday, as the Wrens prepare to defend their Brown Jug Friday night.

FDLTCC (1-6) found the short end of a 78-75 loss at Western Wisconsin Tech last Saturday, as Carlton's Erik Adams paced all with 23 points. The Thunder next host games Friday and Saturday.

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