Wood City tournament creates a buzz in CloquetSix-foot center Kenzie Rathe worked past her recent opponent, scoring a game-best 14 points and snagging a game-high 12 rebounds in the Lumberjacks’ 54-45 consolation victory over Browerville in last Friday’s Wood City Classic Holiday Tournament.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
The Cloquet girls basketball team was plagued by poor shooting in last week’s Wood City Classic Holiday Tournament in Cloquet.
“Sometimes the basket just hates us. We’ll get good shots, but they just don’t go in,” said senior Kenzie Rathe late Tuesday night, following practice. “It’s just something that we know that we all have to work on.”
The 6-foot center worked past her recent opponent, scoring a game-best 14 points and snagging a game-high 12 rebounds in the Lumberjacks’ 54-45 consolation victory over Browerville in last Friday’s Wood City Classic Holiday Tournament. With her double-double effort, Rathe, a third-year varsity player, was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Despite putting up a game-leading 11 points, Rathe and her teammates were ineffective at the basket a night earlier in a 43-36 loss to Bloomington Jefferson before 500 fans last Thursday in the crowded gym.
Tied 19-19 at halftime, Cloquet (5-5) was quiet in the second frame, finishing the evening 12-for-50 shooting – just 24 percent – from the field. According to fifth-year Lumberjacks Coach Jeff Ojanen, his team had several scoreless stretches that night, equaling nearly 17 minutes.
“When you have periods like that, it makes it tough to win games against good teams,” Ojanen said. “We’re still trying to find some scoring, but we just have to be more consistent on both ends of the ball. For us, our upcoming schedule is favorable and I think that our section is wide open.”
Section nemesis North Branch won the Wood City trophy, defeating both Browerville and Bloomington Jefferson in close affairs. North Branch senior Sarah Lekson, a strong center, was named the Most Valuable Player.
Rathe, assisted by starting forward Jaiden Cofield and reserve guard Hazel Erickson, were the only double-digit scorers for the Lumberjacks.
“We haven’t gone a full 36 minutes yet, but we’re getting there,” said Rathe, optimistic about the future. “As long as we stick together, stay positive and work hard, I think we can stick with anyone.”
The Cloquet boys have shown they can play with anyone, already tussling with a trio of metropolitan teams and their section’s finest foes.
Last Friday night, the Lumberjacks (3-4) entertained a jam-packed crowd of 600 fans in a fast-paced, up-and-down championship game that ended with a 53-45 win by St. Paul Central.
“They were pretty athletic,” said 6-foot-7 Cloquet junior center Adam Laine of the champion-crowned Minutemen. “We watched them for their whole game that Thursday before. They were dunking a lot.”
No dunks were had Friday, yet Laine scored inside to tie things 33-33 midway through the second half of a game St. Paul Central led 26-18 at halftime. It was the closest the Lumberjacks ever got to the lead.
“We had some chances, but missed some free throws and had a couple turnovers late,” eighth-year Cloquet Coach Steve Battaglia said. “We fix those up, and I think we’re as good as anybody.”
Cloquet clipped Minneapolis Edison 62-50 the night before, while the visiting Tommies were topped by Deer River for consolation on Friday.
Laine and Cloquet forward Aaron Johnson earned All-Tournament honors, as high-flying Minutemen junior Markus Taylor-Knighten – who had five slams – was the MVP in St. Paul Central’s first trip to the event.
“Cloquet pushed us all the way to the wire,” Coach Scott Howell said afterward, now in his 13th season with the Class AAA Minutemen. “I haven’t talked to [Steve], but I’ll shoot him an email, let him know thanks for this opportunity, that we had a great time, and we’d love to be back.”