Bulldogs bring home the Little Brown JugThe Bulldogs won the game and the Little Brown Jug in a thrilling 68-48 Polar League victory before a packed house Monday night in Wrenshall.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
WRENSHALL – Matt Lund and Erik Adams couldn’t remember the last time the Carlton boys basketball team beat rival Wrenshall for the Little Brown Jug.
After Monday’s game, it’s likely they’ll never forget.
Playing in a hostile road environment, the pair of Bulldogs combined for more than half their team’s points, tallying 39 in a thrilling 68-48 Polar League victory before a packed house Monday night in Wrenshall.
It was the first time since 2006 Carlton had won the historic Jug.
“This one feels very good,” said Lund, a senior. “This is one of the best rivalries around. It’s the best rivalry that we have to play for each year.”
The Brown Jug game has been a part of the small Polar League schools for ages. Although Carlton and Wrenshall play twice yearly, the Jug award can only be won on the holder’s home floor each season. The Wrens had fought off the Bulldogs for the past handful of seasons, but Carlton brought the Jug back home Monday.
“Throw the records out when you play this one,” said Carlton coach Carl Grussendorf. “Our boys came out, executed, and were ready to take that Jug. Matt started and Erik finished.”
Before a crowd of nearly 350 fans, the small-town teams slugged it out for the first eight minutes. Leading 19-17 at that time, Carlton leaped ahead thanks to a 12-0 spurt over five minutes that gave the Bulldogs the edge heading in at halftime.
Lund scored all 15 of his points in opening frame and Carlton led 40-26 by the break.
“I just came in with confidence,” said the 6-foot forward who hit practically every jumper he attempted in the first 18 minutes. “Shots just fell.”
Although they came out slow following recess, the Bulldogs notched the first 12 points on the scoreboard as Wrenshall’s offense went stagnant. Carlton had the Wrens doubled up until Wrenshall senior Brett Johnson finally hit a free throw almost nine minutes into the second session.
“The door was wide open,” said Wrens coach Joel Swanson. “We missed about six or seven easy buckets. We had our opportunities, we just couldn’t score.”
While the Wren’s languished, Adams put the game away. The sophomore sharp-shooter scored 14 of his team-leading 23 points in the second half, as the talented guard buried back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to end all hope for Wrenshall.
“I just started getting in a rhythm,” recalled Adams. “We’ve been playing with a lot of confidence lately. Tonight was fun. We finally put together two halves.”
Since losing their opening nine contests this winter, Carlton (3-10) has rattled off three wins in their last four games. Things are looking good.
“We got the monkey off our back,” Adams said of their first win over Cook County two weeks ago. “And we realized we could just keep it going. We kept our intensity up, played good defense and kept them off the boards tonight. We’re playing together very well.”
“They played well tonight,” added Grussendorf. “This was a good win for us. They’re starting to play with more confidence and did pretty well on both ends tonight.”
“Sincerely, Carlton outplayed us,” he said outside the locker room. “They wanted it more. They out-hustled us, beat us on the glass and stepped up and hit some big shots. But I’m happy for those guys, they deserve it.
“But I told them, don’t get too confident with it,” laughed Swanson. “I know what it’s like not having that thing. I didn’t have it for 12 years. But good for Carlton. They played well.”
Despite Swanson’s crew giving gutsy efforts nightly, they still remain winless. The Wrens (0-10) were again guided by Johnson’s game-leading 26 points but, other than their senior standout, were nonexistent offensively.
“We just have to commit to shooting the ball,” Swanson continued. “In the summer, they have to get out and take 300-500 shots a day. And even if we don’t get that first win, we have to continue to get better and improve. I can see that with these guys. Hopefully they can keep their heads up. I’m still proud of them. They’re good kids.”
Wrenshall will travel to conference rival Silver Bay Friday evening, before they bus to Barnum Tuesday, while Carlton will welcome Fond du Lac Ojibwe Tuesday night.