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Barnum's defense key to win over Cromwell in section quarterfinals

All season long the Polar League demands that teams play at or near their best every game. That pressure lends itself to teams being tested and tough at tournament time. On Saturday, two of those teams put it on the line in the Section 7A quarter...

All season long the Polar League demands that teams play at or near their best every game. That pressure lends itself to teams being tested and tough at tournament time. On Saturday, two of those teams put it on the line in the Section 7A quarterfinal round and when the dust cleared the Barnum boys prevailed 56-47 over Cromwell.

"It was a great high school basketball game," explained Rich Newman coach of the Bombers. "Cromwell came out of the gates and played hard right from the start. They had us down at halftime."

The Cards came out of the first half with a 26-21 lead and were doing a tremendous job of shutting down the vaunted Bomber offense.

"In the first half we played very well on defense and so did Barnum," said Cards coach Bill Pocernich. "Barnum was tough all game on defense. We had a lapse in the second half and it cost us."

Willie Carlson provided the offensive spark for the Bombers with 28 points, which included six three-pointers.

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"We gave Willie only one open look in the first half and he hit it for a three-pointer," recalled Pocernich. "In the second half we gave him three open looks and he buried all three of them. You have to give him credit, he hit the shots and made us pay for our mistakes."

While the Cards struggled defensively for a short time in the second half, the Bombers continued their relentless pressure, allowing Cromwell only 21 second-half points.

"I thought all our guys really stepped up on defense," commented Newman. "Carlson was also huge on the offensive end because Cromwell did a great job on Eggen (Dylan) by not letting him even get on the scoreboard."

Both Carlson and Josh Earlywine, who finished with 12 points for Barnum, never left the floor in the high intensity game.

"It was the kind of game where the ball was on the floor and bodies were flying all over the place," mentioned Newman. "It was a great atmosphere and you have to commend the fans of both towns because UMD was nearly full and for some of the other games there was barely anyone at the games."

While Carlson was scoring big for Barnum, it was John Ammesmaki hitting for 22 points for Cromwell and Jordan Johnson pumping in 11 points.

The Bombers gained the lead about nine minutes into the second half after having to overcome a one- to five-point deficit through the early part of the second stanza.

"Once we finally got the lead we could have put it away, but we struggled with free throws," remarked Newman. "We finally got Carlson to the line and that made a difference."

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Also scoring for the Bombers were Kyle Grimm with six points, Micah Kantonen added five, Tyler Wekseth finished with three, and Erik Johnson recorded a pair of points.

Also scoring for the Cards were Cody Hendrickson with six, Logan Shiflett and Levi Sheff each added three points, John Hedin scored two, and Kyle House finished with a point.

Barnum improved to 24-4 and they will move on to play in the Section 7A semifinals against Mountain Iron-Buhl, who defeated Bigfork 85-48 with star D.J. Winfield scoring 28 points in the win for the Rangers.

Cromwell finishes the season with 21 wins (21-6) for the second year in a row. The Cards will graduate four seniors - Ammesmaki, Sheff, Shiflett and Jordan Johnson.

  • On Thursday, both Barnum and Cromwell had advanced to the quarterfinal round with wins over Floodwood and Cotton respectively.

Barnum downed Floodwood 53-43 with Carlson scoring 12 points, Eggen and Kantonen adding 11 points, Earlywine finishing with eight points, Kyle Grimm scoring five, Erik Johnson chipping in with four and Tyler Wekseth scoring two points.
The Bombers led 24-19 at halftime and slipped away in the second half. Ben Scharnberg led the Polar Bears with 18 points.

  • Cromwell defeated Cotton 76-56 after racing out to a 76-56 lead in the first half. Ammesmaki led the scoring barrage with 17 points, Cody Hendrickson finished with 15, John Hedin added 11, Jordan Johnson dumped in 10, Tyler Burgraff and Logan Shiflett each poured in eight, Adam Smith chipped in with three and Jordan Smith and Levi Sheff each scored two points.

Luke Salo led Cotton with 15 points, Kenny Schofield added 14 and both Jimmy Radtke and Nick Stevenson both scored 10 points.
Pine Journal sports reporter Kerry Rodd can be contacted at: kdrodd@aol.com .

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