Cloquet duo dominates the rimWhile Adam Laine’s sturdy 6-foot-7 body stands as strong as any, slender 6-foot-8 teammate Aaron Johnson jumps like few can. Put the pair together and it’s like thunder and lightning above the rim.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
While Adam Laine’s sturdy 6-foot-7 body stands as strong as any, slender 6-foot-8 teammate Aaron Johnson jumps like few can. Put the pair together and it’s like thunder and lightning above the rim.
Cloquet’s dominant duo has led the Lumberjacks throughout the boys basketball season this winter, as the twin towers are a must-see mix of scoring, rebounding and electrifying plays.
Laine, a soft-handed, nimble Cloquet junior center, can dunk the ball with two hands easily, while Johnson, a skinny senior transfer from Rochester John Marshall High School with a 30-plus inch vertical leap, is as crowd pleasing as forwards come.
Both are go-to players for the Lumberjacks (16-9), winners of three straight, including 11 of their previous 13 games since Jan. 18. Laine leads the team in scoring and rebounding averaging 20-plus points and more than 11 rebounds per game, while Johnson counters with nearly 16 points and nine boards a night.
Each scored double figures in Monday’s 86-26 mauling at Two Harbors.
Coach Steve Battaglia praised the dynamic duo.
“Both of them can score, block shots and rebound the ball exceptionally well,” said Battaglia, a Cloquet alumnus in his eighth season with the Lumberjacks. “Teams have a tough time matching up with one, let alone two guys like Adam and Aaron.
“We run our offense through them, while our perimeter defense is allowed to be more aggressive with 6-7 and 6-8 back there,” he continued. “We’re very fortunate to have those guys.”
Laine has played basketball in Cloquet his entire life, learning from his father, Steve, on their garage hoop at age 5. Scoring his 1,000th career point less than three weeks ago, the 240-pounder is looking to pursue his favorite sport in college.
“I’ve been going to varsity games since I was a kid,” Laine said. “I’d play basketball anytime, anywhere. It’s the most fun thing I have in my life right now. I work on it year-round.”
Laine works wonders with Johnson, who moved from Rochester last August. Living with family friend Robert King, along with varsity teammate Jordan Diver, Johnson said he’s relished playing for Cloquet and now living up north.
“It’s colder, but I like this small town,” Johnson said. “It’s very generous to have what I have here. I’m working hard and having fun – some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing.”
Johnson said he’s been able to slam [dunk] since middle school.
“Since eighth grade,” he said. “I’m always looking to do it.”
As a Section 7AAA contender this postseason, Cloquet looks to qualify for State for the first time since 2000. They are predicting thunder and lightning will help them get there.
“When we’re playing well, we’re tough,” Battaglia said, “but when those two are on – our best is as good as anyone’s best.”