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BOYS BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Kangas puts exclamation point on unforgettable game

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CROMWELL—On a night full of cheers in Cromwell, perhaps the loudest Cardinals’ roar was for Matt Kangas.

It was the senior forward’s nothing-but-net 3-pointer from the top of the key in the game’s final minute that marked Kangas’ first-ever varsity boys basketball score and helped cap Cromwell-Wright’s 62-44 homecoming win over Carlton.

When Kangas, who suffers from learning and behavioral disabilities, swooshed the near 20-footer through the net, teammates immediately jumped up and down from the bench wearing smiles, while the small community’s gymnasium exploded into excitement.

“He doesn’t play much, so for him to get to go in and hit a shot like that — it was a thrill,” junior Austin Pfisthner said of Kangas, who has been playing basketball since sixth grade.

“It was really cool,” said junior Tyler Hakamaki, smiling.

Pfisthner and Hakamaki were really effective, scoring 23 and 14 points, respectively, as the pair of forwards’ power toward the hoop was on display throughout the Polar League contest.

Trailing 27-25 following a “slow” first half, according to Pfisthner, the Cardinals (4-13) commanded the final 18 minutes, when Hakamaki broke a 31-all tie with an old-fashioned 3-point-play inside and kick-started an 18-5 run — including four more baskets by Hakamaki and Pfisthner — to put the game out of reach for the inefficient Bulldogs (2-12).

“We’re young, our second half was weak — every part of it was weak,” said Carlton Coach Adam Bailey, whose senior-less team made just seven second-half field goals to the Cardinals’ 16. “It’s been a bit of a frustrating season, so we have to take away positives. We did have a good first half.”

“There’s still stuff we can learn to get better,” added junior Adam Ermatinger, who scored six points, following Cade Pierson’s team-leading 14 in a fourth consecutive loss.

Cromwell-Wright — which crowned Homecoming King Nick Koenig and Queen Allie Cahoon on stage after the game — has won two of its last three games, as the team improves.

“That’s the best we have played in a while,” said longtime Cardinals Coach Bill Pocernich.

“Everyone played well,” added Pfisthner, who scored his team’s opening nine points. “We turned it on in the second.”

Including Kangas, when he got his opportunity to shoot.

“It’s a small community — everyone was happy for him,” said Pocernich of the “unselfish” play his team executed late.  “Any time good things happen to good kids, you’re happy.”

“He always shows up at all of the practices,” Hakamaki added of  his teammate. “He’s had a couple of opportunities [to shoot in games] before. It was just time for one to drop.”


Barnum (16-1) barreled by visiting Legacy Christian Academy 72-62 Saturday, as the Class AA second-ranked Bombers — winners of 15 straight — haven’t lost in 55 consecutive days.

Cloquet (13-3) conquered Bemidji 61-53 on the road last Friday, getting back to their winning ways and claiming the battle of the Lumberjacks for a second straight season.

Esko (15-3) eased past Pequot Lakes 73-38 Saturday, as the visiting Eskomos — ranked third in Class AA — proved too tough against the Patriots in now back-to-back victories.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe (13-3) was ousted 62-60 in Brooklyn Center Saturday by host Minneapolis Edison. The Tommies held the Ogichidaa to their lowest scoring game of season, while snapping a previous three-game winning streak for the Ojibwe team.

Moose Lake-Willow River (11-6) ripped past Polar League visitor Two Harbors 104-66 last Thursday in Moose Lake, as the Rebels — winners of four straight — marked their highest point output in over a decade.

South Ridge (13-3) ran by Cherry 67-61 last Friday, as the visiting Panthers, victorious in their past six games, preserved a current 19-day unbeaten stretch.

Wrenshall (8-7) whizzed by host McGregor 55-43 last Friday in a Polar League meeting. The Wrens had no problem with the three-win Mercuries and broke a previous two-game slide.

FDLTCC (5-13) fielded a weekend sweep over Minnesota College Athletic Conference foes Hibbing and Rainy River last Friday and Saturday on campus in Cloquet. The Thunder topped the Cardinals 90-78, followed by the Voyageurs 93-65 in back-to-back wins for the first time this winter.