Boys Basketball Roundup for Carlton CountyBombers fall to Pillager 73-71 in overtime, notes on other area teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
BARNUM — Following a pair of incredibly close losses, Barnum boys basketball coach Rich Newman didn’t yell. He treated the games the same way he does when teaching high school social studies lessons.
As learning moments.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Bombers fell 50-49 against Cook County on the road. At home Monday, they came up short against Pillager 73-71 in an overtime loss. Tuesday outside of practice, Newman said they had their opportunities.
“Losing those games was tough to take because we had so many chances in both of them,” Newman said. “I bet you we could have done 20 things differently. Cook County and Pillager are good teams, so hopefully we can learn from those losses.”
That’s the exact approach his players are taking, too.
“We ran into a couple of tough teams,” said 6-foot-3,
175-pound forward Bobby Minkkinen. “Yeah, it’s a couple of losses, but better now than in the playoffs.”
A year ago, the Bombers ran all the way to the Section 5A Final Four. This winter, Barnum (17-4) is looking to improve on its playoff course and hoping, come March, to qualify for their first state tournament since 2007.
“That’s what these kids have been working for all summer and all winter,” Newman said. “There is no one in that gym who doesn’t think we can do that.”
Barnum revolves around their well-balanced offensive scoring attack that is more consistent than in the past. Yet, their defense is what they gauge themselves on.
“We take pride in it,” said Minkkinen. “That’s what Barnum has always been about. In our losses, it’s been a defensive stop here or there, but we’re learning.”
Senior teammate Jake Naslund agreed.
“It’s been a couple little things here and there that we didn’t do, but we can easily fix them,” said the 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard on Tuesday. “We’re just learning from our mistakes and losses, because this is the last chance for us to make a run at state.”
Naslund is at the forefront of the Bombers’ lineup. He is surrounded by Minkkinen inside, along with Jacob Blumer down low. Guards Branden King, Danny Warpula, Rodney Mullen Jr. and underclassmen Brandon Newman and Jaxson Turner all contribute, too. Against Pillager, Naslund had 19 points, as seven Bombers scored.
“We have five guys on the floor who can average 20 points per game,” said Naslund. “It just seems for a couple minutes, we lose focus.”
Barnum only sports losses to Cook County and Pillager, along with New Life Academy of Woodbury and neighbor Moose Lake-Willow River.
Other than that, it’s all been wins.
“We’re playing good basketball,” Minkkinen said. “Looking at our section, I think we have a good shot at things coming up.”
Agreeing that his boys are confident, Newman kept things in
“We haven’t had a good, quality win yet,” he said. “We’re beating the teams we should beat, but we need another one. We’re young, small and games are only going to get tougher coming up. We have a lot of things to fix up. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Much like that upcoming social studies lesson.
Carlton (4-14) recently snapped a five-game losing stretch with a 68-65 win over Nashwauk-Keewatin last Thursday in their highest-scoring output yet. Erik Adams tallied 35 points. Yet, the host Bulldogs fell Tuesday to Polar League foe Cromwell-Wright 66-41. Adams scored 17 points in that contest.
Cromwell-Wright (6-13) has lately been on a hot streak, stringing Polar League wins over Two Harbors last Friday at home and Tuesday at Carlton. In their 73-38 whipping of the Agates last week, Jared Hutar led with 21 points, while in their 66-41 win over the Bulldogs, Hutar led again with 19 points.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (9-10) has been on a roll, drubbing Cherry 82-33 last Thursday and Bullets Home School 74-52 Tuesday in Poplar, Wis. Kello Brown paced the Ogichidaa in both games, scoring 32 points versus the Tigers and 29 more against the Bullets.
Moose Lake-Willow River (12-8) has been up and down as of late, as the Rebels fell to Polar League rival Esko 70-43 last Friday, before topping Hinckley-Finlayson 71-51 Tuesday. At Esko last week, Tony Adamczak led with 16 points, while Taylor Mattison had 12 and Caleb Koecher 11 in defeat.
South Ridge (12-8) has slumped lately, falling 47-44 Monday evening against Two Harbors in Culver, and getting blown out at Ely 87-37 Tuesday night. Colton Peterson led the first-year Panthers in their most recent affair against the Timberwolves with nine points.
Wrenshall (1-17) snapped a 41-game losing streak dating back almost two calendar years ago, when the Wrens topped visiting Greenway 73-58 Monday night. Pat Gustafson led all scorers with 38 points, while Peter Granholm chipped in 14 in Wrenshall’s inaugural win of the winter.
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (3-17) followed a back-to-back win spurt with a lopsided 97-66 loss to Minnesota College Athletic Conference foe Vermilion last Saturday at the Lester Jack Briggs Cultural Center on campus in Cloquet. FDLTCC was back in MCAC action Wednesday night at Northland as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. Saturday, they head to Itasca at 3 p.m. Their home finale is Feb. 22 against Hibbing and regular season finale Feb. 25 at Rainy River.