Boys Basketball Roundup for Carlton CountyBombers and Bulldogs look forward to playoffs, roundups of other Carlton County prep boys basketball teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CARLTON – Adam Bailey dominated the paint during his power forward playing days at Carlton High School a decade ago.
Although not the first to handle the basketball when he competed, Bailey, now a coach, knows the first thing on his Bulldogs’ to-do list is
“That’s been the difference,” Bailey said between drills at practice Tuesday. “We have just been turning the ball over.”
Bailey, in his first season coaching at his alma mater, noted his Carlton club is averaging around 30 giveaways per night. That number is much too high for a squad to be effective.
“Turnovers have completely been limiting us from being successful,” he said. “We usually give up 20 to 30 points per game on them. It’s
Bailey said a majority of the miscues come in the backcourt. That said, baskets come easy for their opponents, mentioned junior Erik Adams.
“We give up a lot of layups and easy shots,” said the 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound guard Tuesday. “We rush with the ball a lot and aren’t patient. Turnovers give them one more shot and us one less. We’re getting better, but yeah, it’s been difficult.”
Carlton (3-13) sports just a trio of wins this season, and only one since the first half of December. Although currently riding a five-game losing streak, Bailey said his Bulldogs have had some chances along the way.
“We probably hold true to our record,” Bailey said. “We’re not going to surprise anyone but we’ve had shots against McGregor a couple times, South Ridge, and I thought we played well against Moose Lake-Willow River last week, too.”
Bailey noted that Adams is his leading scorer, averaging about 13 points per game this season. Fellow junior starters Kyle Gunderson, Lane Empson and Zach Veno have also contributed. Senior starter Dekota Frear is currently battling an injured hip according to Bailey, who also said juniors Mark Lehet, Spencer Walton and freshman Dominic Bennett see time as well.
Monday, Polar League rival Barnum whacked the host Bulldogs 70-43. It was the second 33-plus-point blowout between the pair of teams this year.
“I’m not taking anything away from Barnum, but they’re not 33 points better than us,” Bailey said. “No doubt, they were better than us, but we must have turned the ball over 35 times against their defense.”
“Our kids played well,” said Barnum Coach Rich Newman Tuesday night. “I thought our defensive efforts were very good.”
With the runaway win, the Bombers (15-3) have now won seven of their last eight games. In that time, their only loss came last Friday in a 50-49 nail-biter at Cook County in game where senior Jake Naslund said the Vikings were virtually on fire early.
“In the first 10 minutes, I don’t think they missed a shot,” said the 6-foot-4-inch, 185-pound guard who lost the ball during a final scramble in the game’s closing moments. “We fought back, but I think win or lose, it was a good game for us.”
Naslund leads a well-balanced cast. Seniors Danny Warpula, Branden King, Bobby Minkkinen, Jacob Blumer, junior Rodney Mullen Jr., freshman (and Newman’s son) Brandon Newman and eighth-grader Jaxson Turner all contribute significantly.
“We’re just trying to get better,” added Newman. “We haven’t had a quality win yet, but it would be nice to get one before the playoffs here and see where it takes us. We have our sights set at the [postseason] tournament.”
With a near opposite record, so does Carlton.
“We’re not going to give up,” Bailey said. “But when it’s March and we lace them up and it’s win-or-go-home, that’s when we want to be playing our best.”
“That’s when we get to start over,” Adams said. “That’s when it’s zero-zero.”
Cloquet (7-11) followed its victory over ML-WR last week with a Saturday evening letdown in a 74-63 defeat against Virginia. The Lumberjacks darted to an early lead; however, Cloquet trailed by halftime and never came back, losing just their second game in five contests.
Esko (15-4) got back to its winning ways last Friday when they thumped Polar League nemesis McGregor 75-23 on the road. The Eskomos remain unbeaten atop the conference. Entertaining Esko has now won seven of its last eight games.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (7-10) followed two recent wins with an 83-75 loss at Four Directions Charter last Friday night. It was the Ogichidaa’s second single-digit loss to the Wolves.
Moose Lake-Willow River (11-7) rebounded from a home loss to Cloquet last week with a 62-48 win over Polar League foe Carlton last Friday in the Rebels’ third win in four games.
South Ridge (11-6) has remained idle as of late. The first-year Panthers haven’t played since their 52-48 win over Cromwell-Wright Jan. 30.