Hawks hang on to edge ’Jacks 61-60Perhaps Maxx Brenner’s final jumper Tuesday evening best described the Cloquet boys basketball season thus far: So close.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – Perhaps Maxx Brenner’s final jumper Tuesday evening best described the Cloquet boys basketball season thus far: So close.
Brenner’s shot from just beyond the left elbow rimmed out as time expired in the Lumberjacks’ 61-60 loss to rival Hermantown in a Lake Superior Conference contest before a jam-packed Cloquet High School gymnasium Tuesday. Brenner immediately leapt up, then down on to the floor, knowing his left-handed heave nearly went through for a win.
“I almost got lucky,” said Brenner afterward. “It was a busted play completely. I just threw it up at the end. It looked like it was going in.”
Cloquet (1-3) has been in all four of their games this season, despite having just one win over a poor Proctor team. A loss down the stretch in their opener to Grand Rapids was followed by a one-point quadruple overtime defeat at Zimmerman and now, Tuesday’s tripping to the Hawks on the game’s last possession.
“All of us think we could have won all of those games,” said Brenner, a junior guard. “We’ve already played tough against what are said to be the three top teams in our section. Tonight, we were right there the whole way; we just couldn’t pull through in the end.”
On that final play, Cloquet grabbed a missed Hermantown free throw and rushed up the floor with 10 seconds remaining. Among the havoc, speedy senior guard Marquez Evans executed a pass to Brenner, who then dribbled from right to left and put up his shot that went about halfway in and popped out.
“I thought it was going down,” said Evans. “Yeah, it hurts a bit, but we’re positive. We tried our best.”
Eighth-year Lumberjacks Coach Steve Battaglia explained his team’s last play wasn’t the best, but spoke confidently afterward.
“With 10 seconds to go and no timeouts left, we wanted to go to the hole,” he said. “We were a little discombobulated and a bit of a mess there, but I have to credit Maxx just for getting a shot off.”
Hermantown took off after trailing 28-23 at halftime, regaining the lead on the second half’s first two possessions and never trailing after forward Spencer Johnson’s two-handed slam later on the left baseline.
Johnson was one of three Hawks players in double figures with 12 points, while teammate guards Zach Goplin and Kevin Folman had 17 and 15, respectively, in holding Hermantown unbeaten in four games.
Junior center Adam Laine led Cloquet with a game-best 19 points, followed by Dillon Johnson’s 14. Evans and Aaron Johnson finished with 10 apiece in defeat.
“We play each other all summer long and know each other well,” said fifth-year Hermantown Coach Mike Pothast. “Every game we play I think is like this – just tough and physical. The next time we play them, it’s going to be another war again.”
Battaglia is confident about that future matchup.
“We have two losses by two points and are a sliver away from being 3-1,” Battaglia said. “I’ve been telling people to give us a month; we’ll be fine. We have minor things to fix, but our boys know they can play with anyone in our conference and at the top of our section.”
Barnum (6-0) has begun its season unbeaten, shooting past all six of its foes including a 53-35 whipping of Cook County Tuesday in Barnum.
Carlton (2-4) continues to be up and down this winter, recently falling far short of rival Esko 63-34 Tuesday evening away from home.
Cromwell-Wright (1-3) wrote up its first victory this season, topping visiting nemesis Silver Bay 76-62 Tuesday night in Cromwell.
Esko (6-1) eased past longtime neighbor rival Carlton 63-34 Tuesday at home, as the Eskomos have now won six straight games since dropping their opener at unbeaten Hermantown.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (2-3) has dropped back-to-back games with North Woods and their most recent 66-60 defeat at Hill City Monday.
Moose Lake-Willow River (4-0) remains unblemished early this winter, having thumped Virginia, Floodwood, Cromwell-Wright and most recently Wrenshall 78-62 Tuesday night in Wrenshall.
South Ridge (4-2) broke its previous four-game winning streak when the Panthers were pounded 88-55 Tuesday evening at Ely.
Wrenshall (2-3) won its first two affairs against Carlton and Cromwell-Wright, but has since dropped three in a row to South Ridge, Floodwood and Tuesday’s 78-62 home loss to Moose Lake-Willow River.
FDLTCC (3-9) continues to struggle, losing eight straight, including an 81-78 loss in overtime to the UWS junior varsity last Thursday in Cloquet.