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Lumberjacks win basketball battle with Rebels

Moose Lake-Willow River junior Ian Coil scores over Cloquet junior Tim Pokornowski during Tuesday night's basketball game. The Lumberjacks upended the Rebels 69-58. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com1 / 8
Cloquet's Brandon Hill dives out of bounds to save a ball for teammate Spencer Wehr during Tuesday night's basketball game against Moose Lake-Willow River. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com2 / 8
Cloquet senior Joey Obeidzinski scores in front of Moose Lake-Willow River junior Evan Hanson during Tuesday night's basketball game. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com3 / 8
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The 3-point line turned out to be a friend for both the Cloquet and Moose Lake-Willow River boys basketball teams on Tuesday night. The 'Jacks hit eight 3-pointers and the Rebels nailed seven long-range shots, but in the end the Lumberjacks had just a bit more offense in their 69-58 win at home.

"Cloquet is a far better team than their record shows and that is obvious by their scores," said Rebels coach Wes Cummins. "They've played just a meat grinder of a schedule and have been competitive with some of the best teams in northern Minnesota."

The Rebels suffered a serious blow to their lineup when Isaac Riihiluoma rolled an ankle and ML-WR had to find ways to overcome the loss of a star player, while the Lumberjacks were trying to bounce back after a tough loss to Esko on Monday night.

"I thought we played well overall, but there was a little emotional letdown following the heated rivalry game against Esko on Monday," said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia. "I think we found our legs and cranked things up in the second half."

Bryce Turnbull handled inside duties for the 'Jacks with 19 points to lead Cloquet in scoring, but Cloquet also got double-digit numbers from Tyler Moose with 16 points and Spencer Wehr with 15 points. The 'Jacks added balance throughout the lineup with Brandon Hill's nine points, Joe Obeidzinksi's five points, while Tim Pokornowski added three and Mitch Gerlach chipped in two points. Another key for Cloquet was the ability of their big men to hit the 3-point shot.

"We're shooting well over the last few games," Battaglia said. "Our bigs shoot well and they are able to step out and shoot the three. In general we're just shooting more confidently."

At halftime the Lumberjacks held an eight-point lead at 36-28. They managed to increase that margin in the second half as they outscored the Rebels 33-30 in the second stanza.

"It certainly was a close and competitive game," Cummins said. "With our injuries, our bench was not quite as deep as normal so we had to try and slow the pace of play a bit."

The Rebels had solid efforts from Ryan Barrett with 19 points, Avery Kosloski with 13 points and 12 points from Thomas Gulso. Also scoring for the Rebels were Evan Hanson with seven, Ian Coil with three, Hunter Klund with two points plus Colton Little had a point in the loss.

Cummins took over a team that only won seven games last year, a mark they have already surpassed this season, and the group is playing stronger and improving quickly.

"I told the kids at the beginning of the year the goal of ours is to be dangerous at the end of the year," explained Cummins. "The beginning of the year was a little rocky — a mixture of playing tough teams and learning a new system, but it seems that we are starting to figure it out a bit."

As for the Lumberjacks, Battaglia is also happy with how his youthful squad is performing at this juncture of the season.