Boys Basketball Roundup for Carlton County March 1An in depth look at a recent Esko vs Cromwell-Wright game followed by highlights from other area boys (and men's) basketball teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Although a lights-out shooter himself, Esko’s Jackson Lindquist was quick to credit Cromwell-Wright for their silkiness on the court last week.
“I’d like their see their shooting percentage sheet from the first half,” said the 6-foot-3, 160-pound senior guard. “I don’t think they missed a shot.”
For the record, the Cardinals did miss, but both small-school squads were hot last Friday night in Cromwell. In the end, Esko escaped past Cromwell-Wright 73-60 to win the Polar League boys basketball championship.
It was the first conference title for the Eskomos (20-4) since they shared the crown with Moose Lake-Willow River during the 2007-08 season.
It didn’t come without a fight.
Having won their previous five games entering last Friday, Cromwell-Wright (9-14) darted out early against favored Esko. Behind a hot-shooting first frame, the game was tied 32-32 at halftime. Then the Cards saw the Eskomos pull away in the second, as they ran off about a dozen points leaving the locker rooms.
“Overall, we played well for the whole game, I thought,” said Cromwell-Wright Coach Bill Pocernich, “but we weren’t the only ones shooting well.”
For the night, Esko was 51 percent from the field, compared to the Cards’ 47 percent. Lindquist scored 22 points for the Eskomos, while sophomore Casey Staniger had a game-high 29.
“Once we woke up at halftime, I think we played well,” Esko Coach Mike Devney said. “I was proud of our kids, but Bill always coaches the heck out of those kids in Cromwell. They never went away and I give them credit. I think they’ll definitely surprise a few people when the tournament comes around.”
Cromwell-Wright senior Jake Ramberg agreed.
“We’ve had a little head of steam going lately,” said the 6-foot-2, 270-pound forward Tuesday night. “Nothing is easy in the playoffs, but one of our goals was to get to the Final Four, and we have a good shot at doing that.”
Ramberg scored 15 points for Cromwell-Wright last week, while fellow senior Austin Johnson tallied a team-best 18 and Jared Hutar had 11. Despite defeat, Pocernich feels his Cards are playing their finest basketball at the right time of the season.
“We’re definitely playing the best we have played all year,” he said. “If we continue to play how we have for the past two weeks, I think we will give ourselves a good chance against whoever we’ll face here in March.”
Speaking of a good chance in March, don’t overlook the Eskomos. As a favorite along with Class AA’s top-ranked Braham, Devney thinks his boys’ chances are excellent.
“In the tournament anything can happen, but that’s why it’s fun,” Devney said of the sharp-shooting Eskomos, who have lost only once since Jan. 13. “It’s been a fun year for us, but hopefully we can make a run here.”
“We want to play as far as we can,” added Lindquist. “We haven’t played a full game all year, but if we play all 36 minutes, that’s when we’ll go far and make a big run.”
Barnum (20-5) has caught fire lately, stringing off three straight wins since falling to Polar League rival Esko two weeks ago. Most notably, the Bombers got revenge over league foe Moose Lake-Willow River last Friday, then topped Hinckley-Finlayson 91-57 Saturday and drubbed East Central 83-29 Tuesday night on the road.
Carlton (8-14) closed its regular season last Friday night with a solid 65-52 road victory over Polar League nemesis Wrenshall on their homecoming night. Concluding their schedule, the streaking Bulldogs have now won four straight games, defeating the Wrens for a second time this season, along with Floodwood, East Central and Two Harbors all within the past two weeks.
Cloquet (8-16) continued its struggles on the court last week. The Lumberjacks were smacked by visiting Lake Superior Conference counterpart Superior 69-47 last Friday. Cloquet has now lost six of its past seven games and posted just one victory in all of February.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (11-13) has won only one game over the past two weeks. On a recent home stand, the Ogichidaa fell to Bigfork and, more recently, Minnesota Transitions Charter 90-66 Saturday. Their latest win was over Faith Christian 77-49 last Friday in Cloquet.
Moose Lake-Willow River (14-11) has been on a late-season three-game slide, as the Rebels posted losses to Class AA’s top-ranked Braham, Polar League rival Barnum last Friday at home and Proctor 58-39 on the road Tuesday evening.
South Ridge (12-9), like ML-WR, has also fallen in three consecutive contests, as the first-year Panthers came up short against Two Harbors and Ely. Away from their Culver-based school last Thursday, South Ridge was most recently drubbed by Floodwood 67-37.
Wrenshall (1-20) still sports a lone win against Greenway this winter. In the two weeks since then, the Wrens were defeated by Hill City, Cook County and Polar League rival Carlton 65-52. Their most recent loss came to the Bulldogs last Friday on homecoming night.
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (3-21) closed the men’s basketball season Saturday afternoon with a 97-94 loss at Minnesota College Athletic College rival Rainy River. League foe Hibbing also walloped the Thunder 78-54 last Wednesday in Cloquet, as FDLTCC closed its schedule, losing the final five games of the season.