KORBY'S CORNER: Steen scores with the best of ’em

Body: 

If you look at the Cloquet girls basketball roster, Kassidy Steen is listed at 6-foot-1, but when asked about her height, the Lumberjacks junior center was quick to admit the truth.

“Six-1 in shoes,” cracked Steen, the team’s tallest player.

Not only is Steen the squad’s biggest athlete, but she’s been the biggest asset in helping save the season for Cloquet (8-7), a team which started 0-5 until Steen’s scoring binge.

The Lumberjacks’ recent six-game winning streak was just snapped last Saturday, but started last month when Steen scored 71 points in two victories over Bemidji. Just two days later, the post player put up a career-high 40 in a two-point win at Eveleth-Gilbert on Jan. 5, giving her 111 points in six days en route to being voted the Twin Cities-based Northstar Girls Hoops online Player of the Week.

“Something just clicked,” said Steen, whose averaging a double-double of team-bests with 24 points and 12 rebounds per night. “I didn’t even know I was scoring that much. I get so into the game, I’m not even worried about it.”

Conversely, most opposing teams need to worry about Steen. A basketball player since kindergarten, the ultra-effective right-hander — who is just as good with her left — is as big a threat as they come. Her ability to score both ways, mixed with a soft touch and nimble footwork, is efficient. Cloquet Coach Jeff Ojanen said when she’s on, it’s fun to watch.

“In girls basketball, to have a presence like Kassidy inside is challenging for the opponent,” Ojanen said. “When she’s playing well and on top of her game, she’s as good a player around here that we’ve seen in a while. It’s nice to have her.”

Having played basketball and volleyball with Steen since seventh grade, junior classmate Jess Stone said her close friend is not only a leader on and off the court, but added her teammate’s personality is fun on top of being the go-to player.

“She’s really reliable and always there to make the plays when we need them,” said Stone, “but she’s also very fun, witty and quick to say the first joke — she’s really talkative.”

Covering and coaching Steen over the years, I’d agree with Stone, to a point. Although she keeps the mood light — and yes, likes to talk — Steen lets her athleticism do all of the talking.

A three-sport athlete who also plays volleyball and softball, Steen said basketball is her sport. Playing Amateur Athletic Union in the offseason for Northern Lights, she’s traveled the country, continuing to improve her skills in a game she loves.

Tuesday, in Cloquet’s 68-48 win at Hibbing, Steen scored in double-digits again, but the result was what mattered most.

“It’s always first on the list,” Steen said. “To start 0-5 and get to where we’re at now feels good. It’s definitely been all of us as a team. We have our roles and have stuck together.”