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Illness doesn’t slow Fetters, Bombers

BARNUM—Scoring a game-high 16 points in a boys basketball win over rival Moose Lake-Willow River last Friday, Barnum’s Hunter Fetters looked like his usual self.

Until after the game. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound senior center was curled over a locker room garbage can after the 52-41 victory, paying the price for playing on his fifth consecutive day with strep throat.

White as a ghost following the win, Fetters explained his illness began Monday, and Tuesday he had a temperature of 104 degrees, causing him to miss his Bombers’ 67-36 trouncing of Two Harbors — not able to leave his bed.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Fetters said he slept near 30 hours, before a “rough” practice Thursday in preparation for game against the Rebels Friday. A game between schools separated by less than five miles, Fetters wasn’t about to miss it.

“There were times in the game I couldn’t breathe or swallow,” Fetters said, “but I like playing Moose Lake. They’re our rival — and rivalry games are just fun.”

As always, the pair of Polar League programs packed both sides of the Barnum gym last week, and didn’t disappoint.

The Rebels led by as much as 18-12 early, but a 15-3 Bombers run to close the first half put the hosts up 27-21 at the break. ML-WR kept that margin within hand throughout the second, but down 40-36 with around six minutes to go, several consecutive 3-point attempts never hit the rim.

Free throws sealed it for Barnum (5-2), as junior Reece Parks was a perfect 6-of-6 down the stretch, while senior Mason Agurkis added a pair and several key rebounds late.

ML-WR (1-5) meanwhile, although at times showing signs of brilliance, was a dismal 7-for-38 from beyond the arc. Their only two varsity returnees are senior Rex Janke and junior Isaac Riihiluoma — and they scored eight points combined.

“That was the difference in the game,” said coach Neil Dickenson, noting the Rebels’ only win thus far was a 62-51 defeat of East Central Monday. “We [have only one win], but no one is hanging their heads here. We’re staying positive and the effort is there. I’m very confident we’ll turn this around.”

Dickenson and his Rebels were led by senior Jed Gill’s 13 points, followed by sophomore Thomas Gulso’s 12. Barnum coach Rich Newman also saw senior Chris Carlson add 15 to Fetters’ game-high 16.

Newman, in his 19th year, was especially impressed with the 6-2 Agurkis, a co-captain along with Fetters and Carlson, who played tough on the blocks all night, especially late.

Newman said his young team has some things to work on still, but is happy with his younger players’ efforts. Especially in a neighborhood game that has been buzzing for decades.

“It was a good atmosphere — we’re right down the road and a lot of these guys and parents know each other. It’s a good rivalry. Everyone enjoys the night out. Hopefully we can keep it going,” he said. “We have to get back to the drawing board — it’s going to be tough when we go down there.”

As for Fetters, Newman noted he’s had players play through illness before, but added his big-man never told him he was tired or wanted to come out of the nip-and-tuck game.

“Playing the entire game is really hard to do, even for a fully healthy person,” said teammate Carlson. “But he works his butt off every night. And I love playing with him.”

While Carlson, too, is fighting tonsillitis — drinking orange juice after the game — Fetters is on medication. He said on a scale of 1-10, 10 being healthy, he was a four following the game. He added he wouldn’t be at the school dance that night.

“I’m taking medicine and going to sleep,” Fetters said, and smiled.

Boys’ Rivalries to Watch

While the Bombers and Rebels are again must-see on Feb. 5 in Willow River, the next can’t-miss ticket is this Friday, Dec. 18, when Barnum travels to Esko. Cloquet and ML-WR are also at Esko Feb. 8 and 19. Cloquet at Hermantown Jan. 14 will be fun and Cromwell-Wright hosting Floodwood Feb. 12 is worth the trip. The “Brown Jug” is also up for grabs Jan. 8, when Carlton buses to Wrenshall in a contest sure to be packed with fans.