Girls basketball roundup for Carlton County teamsA tale of the Thunder women's basketball team and how they were saved by a bunch of softball players, plus roundups of the Carlton County prep girls basketball teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Rachel Sanda hasn’t played basketball competitively since her eighth-grade days running up and down the gym floor at the Cloquet Middle School.
Now a college sophomore, she’s giving it another whirl.
Sanda, a Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College volleyball player in the fall and softball player in the spring, decided to add another sport to her schedule this winter to help out the Thunder women’s basketball program.
Sanda is one of a half-dozen non-basketball recruited student-athletes who have been, for the past month, lacing up their shoes and competing against college opponents that are for the most part, better than them.
“Girls nowadays can definitely dribble better and shoot more consistently than in eighth grade!” Sanda said with a laugh. “I’m still at an eighth-grade level, but I told the coach ‘OK, I’ll help out.’”
Ashley O’Day, Elizabeth Bobst, Courtney Cruise, Casey Pierce and Katie Youngberg are also helping out a basketball program that, according to first-year FDLTCC Coach Melissa Johnson, has been plagued by injuries, transfers and lack of numbers.
“Without those girls stepping up, we would have had to forfeit our other games,” Johnson said Wednesday. “They have really brought a lot of skill to this team, but most of all, a positive attitude.”
Johnson said that around a month ago, she went on the lookout for athletes around the college to help out. Alongside her was second-year Athletic Director Keith Turner, who said what the girls have done is special.
“The biggest thing you have to be proud of is those girls are caring for our school,” Turner said. “They want all of our women’s programs to do well, and they all stepped forward to help finish out the season.”
Although Sanda said times have been tough, she’s enjoyed it.
“It can be frustrating because most of the time, most of us don’t know what we’re doing,” said Sanda, a 5-foot-5 guard. “The girls who remain on the basketball team really love to play and I would hate for them to waste their eligibility. So whatever practice or game we can, we’ll be there for them.”
Win-loss record aside, Turner said the program never quits competing.
“Whether they’re down by 40 or down by 50, these girls continue to fight and keep coming back,” he said. “It’s not like we had to twist their arms and legs to help out, these girls wanted to do it. They wanted to help out.”
Carlton (7-14) continued their losing ways last Thursday night when they fell at Polar League nemesis Floodwood 66-60. In a road engagement that marked their sixth straight defeat, the Bulldogs were led by Clarissa Nelson’s 19 points, while Lindsey Dahl-Holm and Brooke Camps each chipped in 18 and 13, respectively.
Cromwell-Wright (11-12) followed their Polar League win over Carlton last Monday with a difficult 70-67 overtime road loss at conference rival McGregor. In their second single-point loss to the Mercs this winter, the Cardinals were led by Kayle Johnson’s 18 points, Christina Stenson’s 14 and MaKayleigh Cahoon’s 13.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (4-21) has sustained their struggles throughout the winter, getting blown out by Northeast Range 98-17 Friday on the road and 108-16 Saturday afternoon at Cass Lake-Bena.
South Ridge (12-12) closed their regular season at home Tuesday night when they smacked Duluth Denfeld 82-45 in Culver. The Panthers were guided by Kendra Dallmann and Kourtney Karppinen’s 21 points each, while Mikayla Olesiak and Alyssa Johnson had 15 and 10.
Wrenshall (3-18) remained hot, as they slipped past host Hinckley-Finlayson 71-68 in a high-scoring small-school affair Tuesday night in Hinckley. Statistics weren’t immediately available, as the streaking Wrens have now won three of their past four contests, including victories over Hill City and Polar League rival Silver Bay.