Boys basketball preview: Brown, Fond du Lac Ojibwe seek another postseason runAn in depth look at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe and brief highlights of other area boys basketball teams.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – From thundering two-handed slams, to baseline reverse flushes, Kello Brown can easily dunk a basketball. But following his windmill jam at Monday’s practice, even the high-flyer was straightforward.
“I got lucky with the windmill,” said Brown with an honest chuckle.
Luck has rarely played a part of the electrifying Fond du Lac Ojibwe senior’s game this winter. With his large hands, long wingspan and lengthy vertical, Brown has been a consistent threat, averaging almost 30 points and 12 rebounds per night, as he now helps guide the Ogichidaa into this week’s Section 7A playoffs.
A year removed from their Cinderella Final Four run last March, sixth-seeded FDL (12-13) again sports a low seed, but the small tribal school isn’t one to be overlooked.
“There are always some upsets out there, so hopefully we can pull some off,” first-year Ogichidaa Coach Earl Otis said Monday. “These kids can play. I know there are a lot of teams we’ve seen that don’t want to play us again. I think we can make a run.”
To do so, fast-paced FDL will look to fine-tune areas while having Brown carry the load. The game-changing forward has well over 700 points and nearly 300 rebounds this season, while his ability to rock the rim with an array of flashy dunks is threatening.
“I’ve never coached a kid so athletic,” said Otis of his 6-foot-4, 189-pound centerpiece. “The little kids just love it when he dunks. They all want his autograph.”
Admitting he’s signed a handful of autographs and taken a few photos this year, the humble Brown was the first to admit his teammates are his top priority every night.
“I like to take over sometimes, but I’m always just looking for my teammates first off,” said Brown, who began attending the Cloquet-based school a season ago, after moving from north Minneapolis. “When we’re on, we’re tough to stop.”
Indeed. FDL’s run-and-gun scheme makes them a dangerous contender again. Now that it’s the postseason, eighth-grader Bruce Martineau figures anything can happen.
“Now, it’s the playoffs, it is zero-zero; that’s how I see it,” said Martineau, a 5-foot-9, 150-pound point guard. “Here in the playoffs is when it counts most.”
Making it the furthest in the tiny school’s history, FDL traveled all the way to the section semifinals last March, falling to eventual champion Chisholm 64-62.
“That one hurt a lot,” Brown said of the narrow defeat. “Last year was a very special moment for this school. But this year we want to get even farther.”
The Ogichidaa’s journey begins Thursday in Hermantown against third-seeded South Ridge at 6 p.m. A win there advances FDL to Saturday’s quarterfinals at Hibbing at 1 p.m., likely against Cook County, a team the Ogichidaa upset last postseason.
“It’s a different time of year,” Brown said. “But we’re confident and I think we’re ready. Now in the playoffs, we’re going to have to play hard and do whatever it takes.”
Even if that means a few more windmills.
Barnum (21-5) has won its previous four games and is a top seed in the Section 5A playoffs. The Bombers will open the postseason hosting play-in winner Onamia Thursday at 7 p.m. A win would put them in Saturday’s quarterfinals at Mora at 6 p.m. against either Hill City or McGregor. Following victories, semifinal action is also set for Mora on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Carlton (9-14) kick-started Section 7A postseason play Tuesday night with a 70-47 shellacking over visiting Cherry in a play-in game. The hot-streaking Bulldogs have now won five straight and will next face top-seeded Lakeview Christian Academy in second-round action Thursday at 7:45 p.m. in Esko. A shocker could push them to Saturday’s quarterfinals in Hibbing.
Cromwell-Wright (10-15) began Section 7A playoff action Tuesday evening as they snuck past visiting Polar League rival Wrenshall 74-68 in a play-in contest. The Cardinals snapped a previous two-game slide with the narrow win, as they’ll next challenge second-seed Cook County Thursday at 7:45 p.m. in Hermantown. Quarterfinal action would then be in Hibbing Saturday.
Esko (22-4) sits as one of the top seeds in the Section 7AA field, as the sharp-shooting Eskomos have won their last eight games, not losing since January. Esko welcomed bottom-seeded Pine City Wednesday as the Pine Journal went to press. A likely win would move them to Saturday’s quarterfinals against either Mora or Hinckley-Finlayson at 2:45 p.m. at UMD.
Moose Lake-Willow River (14-12) dropped its past four games to close their schedule, yet still is seeded third in Section 7AA. As last year’s section runners-up, this year’s No. 3 Rebels hosted No. 6 Aitkin Wednesday as the Pine Journal went to press. A victory moves ML-WR into Saturday’s quarterfinals at UMD at 6 p.m. likely facing the state’s top-ranked Braham.
South Ridge (12-10), like the Rebels, watched the past four games slip away to close their regular season, but the Panthers, also like ML-WR, sit a third seed in Section 7A. South Ridge faces sixth-seeded Fond du Lac Ojibwe Thursday at 6 p.m. in Hermantown. A win places the first-year Panthers in Saturday’s quarterfinals set for Hibbing against likely Cook County.
Wrenshall (1-22) finished its winter season Tuesday night with a Section 7A play-in game loss to Polar League nemesis Cromwell-Wright 74-68 on the road. The closely-fought defeat marked the third time this season that the Cardinals topped the Wrens. Wrenshall’s lone victory came at home against Greenway this year, as the Wrens closed their