Basketball Roundup-Wood City Classic comes to CloquetCloquet (2-3) is hyped for its annual Wood City Classic boys and girls basketball tournament taking place today and Friday at Cloquet High School.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Dillon Johnson said he’s softly dunked a basketball in practice before, but the Cloquet junior admitted nothing like teammate Aaron Johnson’s near alley-oop last week in Minneapolis.
Aaron Johnson, a slender 6-foot-8, high-flying forward, caught Marquez Evans’ lob over the right side and banged it off the back rim towards half court on the opening play of Cloquet’s 74-68 win over Minneapolis Southwest. Sure, the play wasn’t executed fully, but Dillon Johnson said it sent a message.
“It’s fun have some big-time dunkers like that,” said Johnson, noting sturdy 6-foot-7 center Adam Laine can also punish the rim. “Coach wants us to get the ball inside to Adam and Aaron. And if there’s a dunk, that’s an advantage. It gets everyone hyped-up.”
Cloquet (2-3) is hyped for its annual Wood City Classic boys and girls basketball tournament taking place today and Friday at Cloquet High School. Eight games will be played over the two-day affair, with the Lumberjack boys being one team to watch closely.
Eighth-year Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia said his team has been playing well, despite a defeat down the stretch to 10th-ranked Grand Rapids and a pair of one-point losses at Zimmerman in quadruple overtime and Hermantown on the game’s last possession.
Laine and Aaron Johnson control the middle, with Dillon Johnson, now a third-year threat from outside. Veteran guards Nate Weets, Maxx Brenner and first-year varsity players Zach Gerlach and Jake Bushey also contribute, along with the lightning-fast Evans.
“We’ve got the quickness, the athleticism and kids who are just fundamentally sound basketball players,” Battaglia said. “I think that we can play in our half court set with anyone. Our key will be taking care of the ball up the floor – and then getting it into the paint.”
Cloquet faces Minneapolis Edison and St. Paul Central Thursday and Friday, both games are at 6:15 p.m. Deer River is also in the field, but Dillon Johnson likes the Twin Cities competition they have ahead.
“We just beat a [Twin] Cities team,” he said. “We’re a good team. If we play well, I think we’ll come out with two wins in our pockets.”
The Lumberjack girls have been pocketing victories as well, defeating Deer River, Hermantown and Duluth Denfeld as of late.
Cloquet (4-4) is led by junior Jaiden Cofield, a versatile 5-foot-8 forward, who transferred to Cloquet from Ely to be closer to her mother’s job. She averages 15 points and has six double-doubles.
“She shoots the ball, takes it to the basket, is tough to match up with defensively and has rebounding ability,” said Lumberjacks Coach Jeff Ojanen, now in his fifth season. “She’s a kid who works hard and is fun to coach. She’s been a great addition to our team.”
Cofield played elementary school basketball in Cloquet until sixth grade, and said Tuesday night, it’s enjoyable to be back home.
“I grew up playing basketball, since I was a kid – I was 4,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed it. I enjoy this team. It’s a positive team.”
Cloquet hosts Bloomington Jefferson and Browerville, both days at 4:30 p.m., while North Branch is the other team in the event.
“Bloomington Jefferson will be a test [today],” Ojanen said, “but the girls are excited, confident and are ready to test a [Twin] Cities team.”
Barnum (6-1) broke open the winter winning their first six games, until the Bombers were bested at Braham 70-63 last Friday.
Carlton (3-6) continued their ups and downs at the St. John’s Prep Holiday Tournament last week, as the Bulldogs beat the hosts, then fell to both Holdingford and Maple Lake in Collegeville, Minn.
Cromwell-Wright (2-3) wrote up another win when the Cardinals edged visiting Hill City 79-76 in overtime last week in Cromwell.
Esko (7-1) eased past host Virginia 72-46 last week, as the Eskomos have now won seven straight since losing their opener at Hermantown. Esko hosts the Coaches Classic Thursday and Friday.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (2-4) has lost three straight, including a 63-58 affair to Mesabi Academy last week in Cloquet. The Ogichidaa will play in the Proctor Invitational Thursday and Friday.
Moose Lake-Willow River (4-0) remains unbeaten entering the Crosby-Ironton Invitational Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
South Ridge (4-2) has been off for over a week, and the Panthers will play in the Esko Coaches Classic Thursday and Friday.
Wrenshall (3-3) snapped their previous three-game losing streak with a convincing 64-48 win at rival McGregor last Friday.
FDLTCC (3-9) has lost eight straight and will next play on Wednesday, Jan. 9, when they travel to Mesabi Range.