Boys basketball roundup...News about Wrenshall, Carlton and other area teamsMoments after Wrenshall defeated rival Carlton last week, the Wrens shook hands, celebrated with their faithful fans, and Derek Duncan ran to the locker room with “the jug.”
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CARLTON – Moments after Wrenshall defeated rival Carlton last week, the Wrens shook hands, celebrated with their faithful fans, and Derek Duncan ran to the locker room with “the jug.”
Ecstatic teammates, including Pat Gustafson, followed.
Led by Gustafson’s game-high 17 points, the Wrens wrote up a 47-26 victory over the neighboring Bulldogs and, ultimately, claimed hold of the Little Brown Jug last Friday in Carlton before a jam-packed, sitting-in-the-aisle, homecoming audience.
“I’ll remember this one for the rest of my entire life,” said a sweaty Gustafson outside the locker room afterward. “It’s great beating Carlton, but it’s even better when winning the jug.”
The historic jug – which weighs nearly 30 pounds – has traveled between the small communities since 1951, marking the most important matchup of the winter for both schools. Played for in both boys and girls basketball, the jug can only be won on the holder’s home court. The winner keeps the jug at home the entire calendar year.
Over time, Carlton has collected the jug on 42 occasions, while Wrenshall’s win last week was their 21st time hoisting the longtime memento and the first occurrence since they claimed it in 2010.
“We’ve wanted this thing for so many years,” Gustafson said. “We weren’t going to let this one slip away. We stopped them on defense, hit our free throws and took care of the basketball.”
“They were looking for revenge and they got it,” added Carlton senior Kyle Gunderson. “We couldn’t get going and just didn’t get the W. [Wrenshall] played better and was more composed than us.”
Gustafson, a 6-foot senior guard, was composed often, as the right-hander netted 13 of his points in the first half, including a three-pointer that gave Wrenshall a 15-13 lead they never relinquished.
Trailing 29-17 at halftime, Carlton climbed within 10 points later in the second, but never threatened, going on a combined 11-minute drought, scoring nine points in the second and just 26 total.
“If we score 26, we won’t win another game,” said Bulldogs Coach Adam Bailey. “But hands down, Wrenshall just played better. In every aspect of the game, they just beat us – going to the hole, diving for loose balls, finishing. They were just tougher.”
Longtime Wrenshall Coach Joel Swanson, now in his 19th season, said that toughness has been evident throughout the year.
Sweeping the season series with Carlton, Swanson said his Wrens (10-13) have battled previous losing – and even winless – seasons, to get to the double-digit win total they sport today.
Senior Erik Adams paced the Bulldogs (10-13) with nine points, while Wrenshall sophomore Jessie Ellerbe collected 10.
And most importantly, with his teammates, took home the jug.
“Growing up, all I heard was how important this jug is,” Ellerbe said, “It feels unbelievable. Hopefully it stays here for more years.”
“This was a huge win, especially for these seniors, who have taken their lumps,” Swanson added. “And to take the jug back, these will be memories these boys will have the rest of their lives.”
Barnum (21-3) blitzed visiting Pine City 79-41 Tuesday evening, marking back-to-back victories for the Bombers, a team that has won nine of their previous 10 games since mid-January.
Cromwell-Wright (8-14) wrote up another defeat – their fourth straight – falling 67-57 Tuesday at Mountain Iron-Buhl.
Esko (21-4) edged visiting Pequot Lakes 60-49 Tuesday for their fourth victory in a row. In their win over Cromwell-Wright last week, the Eskomos captured the Polar League title.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (16-7) overwhelmed Wrenshall 86-65 Tuesday in Cloquet, as the Ogichidaa have won 10 of their last 11 games.
Moose Lake-Willow River (16-10) regained their winning stride by pounding Proctor 68-31 Tuesday night in Moose Lake.
South Ridge (14-7) rattled off another victory, mauling host McGregor 86-36 Tuesday for the Panthers’ fourth win in a row.
FDLTCC (5-22) finished losing seven straight, including a 96-70 setback to Rainy River Saturday in International Falls.