Boys Basketball Roundup:Fast-paced Fond du Lac Ojibwe bury Bulldogs 86-46 Tuesday with notes on other Carlton County teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Entering his first-ever season coaching high school boys basketball, Earl Otis said his game plan was to have his Fond du Lac Ojibwe program flying under the radar come the March playoffs.
Well, scratch that.
Behind their fast-paced, high-flying, above-the-rim style of play, the Ogichidaa have become a must-see act this winter. With the small tribal team’s mixture of a potent offense sprung by an in-your-face defense, FDL flew past neighboring Carlton 86-46 Tuesday in Cloquet for their fourth win of the season.
“Tonight we took [Carlton] out of their game,” Otis said. “They like to slow it down and we like to play fast. We’ve been working on our defense lately and I think our length really hurt Carlton tonight.”
Otis explained that his Ogichidaa’s 1-2-2 zone caused an early steal where, in turn, FDL superstar forward Kello Brown sped down the court for a transition slam on just the third possession of the game. FDL took a 22-point halftime lead and never looked back.
“It’s always fun to get out and play, we wish we could have played more tonight,” said the 6-foot-5 Brown, who scored a game-best 40 points Tuesday in FDL’s first win in three weeks. “We played pretty good tonight.”
“He’s college-bound somewhere,” Carlton Coach Adam Bailey said of the high-flying, entertaining Brown. “[Fond du Lac] is athletic and we just didn’t match up. They shoot the ball, and shoot it well.”
Yet, it’s been the Ogichidaa’s (4-6) depth and defense that has their coach smiling most. According to Otis, FDL welcomed back a number of players recently, bolstering their thin roster. He added that the team’s defense and rebounding has improved substantially since the season began in early December.
“We’re much better than we were earlier in the year,” said Otis, noting his team’s run-and-gun offense and attacking defense these days. “Our boys are getting experienced, you can see it. I really think we’re starting to gel now.”
Behind Brown, Lee St. John scored 18 points Tuesday, while Bruce Martineau added 10, as seven FDL players scored. Erik Adams led Carlton with 21 points in defeat.
“We’re always good on offense,” Brown added, “but now, we’re getting better at defense. We still have to improve, but we’re playing pretty well right now.”
With wins against Minnesota Transitions Charter, Silver Bay, Mesabi Academy and now Carlton, FDL also has half a dozen defeats amongst its strong schedule, most recently against Class A state-ranked Cass Lake-Bena, 82-72.
“It was nice to get a win tonight,” Otis said. “It felt really good.”
Across the way in Carlton, Bailey’s Bulldogs (2-8) haven’t won in over a month.
“We turn the ball over entirely too much,” Bailey said, explaining his boys average about 30-plus giveaways per night. “It’s tough to turn the ball over that many times and expect to win. It’s been a frustrating few weeks.”
Winless since Dec. 9, the first-year coach remains optimistic.
“You have to stay positive,” said Bailey, whose Bulldogs have beaten Wrenshall, Two Harbors and also recently battled South Ridge in a 58-44 defeat Monday. “It seems like we’re taking two steps back, but then two steps forward. It’s been frustrating, but we just have to keep working hard. If you continue to work hard, the wins will take care of themselves. We’ll get there. Things will work out.”
Cloquet (3-7) snapped its previous three-game skid with an impressive 67-41 victory at Lake Superior Conference nemesis Ashland Tuesday night. Likely the toughest three-win team in the area, the inconsistent Lumberjacks already sport losses to state-ranked Grand Rapids and Blake, amongst others.
Cromwell-Wright (3-7) continues its woes entering mid-season. Having lost four of the previous five games, the Cardinals defeated Mountain Iron-Buhl 79-70 Monday evening, only to follow-up Tuesday with a 62-56 double-overtime defeat against Polar League foe McGregor in Cromwell.
Esko (8-3) tried highly-touted Class AAAA powerhouse Duluth East on for size Tuesday and had little to talk about. In just their third loss of the winter, the Eskomos were walloped 95-52 at home.
Wrenshall (0-8) remains winless, as the Wrens lost their eighth game in as many attempts this winter when they were smacked 90-54 by seventh-ranked Lakeview Christian Academy Tuesday at home.
South Ridge (7-3) saw their previous three-game spurt snapped when they were pummeled by visiting North Woods 80-41 Tuesday in Culver. The night before, the first-year Panthers defeated struggling Carlton 58-44 at Culver, while they buried Mountain Iron-Buhl on the road a week earlier.
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (0-9) got back onto the hardwood Saturday against the College of St. Scholastica’s junior varsity program. It was their first action since Dec. 17. The winless Thunder hosted Minnesota College Athletic Conference rival Rainy River Wednesday evening when this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. FDLTCC will next hit the road north to MCAC nemeses Mesabi Range Friday night, as well as Vermilion Saturday afternoon.