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Carlton girls keep Brown Jug at home

Wrenshall senior Delaney Kittel drives the ball in Thursday’s Little Brown Jug game, pestered by Carlton junior Jenna Reed. The two had a long night of battling each other for possession of the ball. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal 1 / 4
The Carlton Bulldogs celebrate their win over Wrenshall for the Little Brown Jug Thursday night. Dan Saletel/news@pinejournal.com 2 / 4
Carlton sophomore Millie Groth gets a rebound away from Wrenshall senior Shana Laveau Thursday. Dan Saletel/news@pinejournal.com 3 / 4
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CARLTON—Millie Groth may have been the last to score for the Carlton girls basketball team in their win over neighboring Wrenshall, but the wide-smiling sophomore sure wasn’t the last to touch the trophy that came afterward.

Groth, wearing her No. 1 blue and white Bulldogs jersey, was fittingly the first to hoist the coveted Brown Jug after their exciting 57-50 win over the Polar League rival Wrens last Thursday before a near-capacity filled gym in Carlton.

The jug game is without a doubt the biggest on the schedule for both small schools — boys and girls. Competed for just once per year on the owner’s home floor, the historic memento means a lot to the small communities.

The boys’ trophy looks like a massive moonshine jug, weighing around 30 pounds and first marked with a score in 1951. The girls’ jug looks much the same, only a lot smaller in size — coming in about five pounds — and has been traveling between the two tiny schools since 1980.

When Groth got her two hands on the top prize — adorned with a couple decorative flags and plenty of scores written in marker — the 16-year-old was oh-so-smiley.

“Getting that jug is the best feeling ever,” an overjoyed Groth said before and after plenty of photos with friends, family and teammates holding the 36-year-old keepsake.

Groth said school was difficult last week, admitting, “I couldn’t even concentrate in any of my classes,” as the hallways were buzzing about both contests each day.

At the girls’ game, both the Bulldog and Wren mascots were on hand, while Wrenshall fans brought plenty of homemade posters and even basketball-shaped baked cookies for their girls. The Carlton student section, meanwhile, was electric. Waving signs and their school flag, plenty of roars were had and they stormed the court after the last horn sounded.

Speaking of that last horn, Groth, who scored six points on the night, beat the buzzer with a near 30-foot 3-pointer. Simply excited at the time, Groth meant no harm in adding to the score, but she did the most damage just minutes earlier when, with 2:59 to play, the right-hander drained a triple for a 49-48 lead they never relinquished again. The gym exploded.

“It was just an open look, so I shot it,” recalled Groth.

The girls will now put the jug in their trophy case.

“Eight years in a row,” Groth said of their jug streak.

In fact, 5-foot-8 Carlton senior center Ashley Anderson, who scored a team-best 20 points, has never once lost the jug.

“Five-for-five,” said Anderson. “It’s a big game. You only play for it once a year and everyone knows when it is.”

The back-and-forth affair saw Carlton, now with three victories, collect a 30-19 lead by halftime, before the five-win Wrens came storming back. Led by senior Delaney Kittel’s game-high 21 points — 16 of which came in the second half — and 15 more via classmate Shana Laveau, Wrenshall went up 44-40 with five minutes to go, but a 17-6 Bulldog run, keyed by Groth’s trifecta, closed the evening.

It was coach Andrew Weber’s second straight jug win.

“The jug adds a whole other dimension,” the Carlton coach said. “I’ve never been a part of something like this.”

The schools have talked about consolidating for years. If it so happens, the jug competition would end. Wrenshall coach Sheri Nelson said that jug-less void would hit both communities.

“It’s the one game of the year we circle on the calendar. You can hardly hear. There isn’t much like this,” she said. “If we did consolidate, this would be a big thing missing.”

KEYNOTES BY KORBY:

On a night where she was the game’s top scorer, Kittel was also the birthday girl, turning 18. Kittel admitted she didn’t even think of her big day, but rather just the jug game.

“It’s all I thought about,” said Kittel after. “I’ve never even touched the jug, so I wanted to see what it was like.”

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