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Cloquet girls, boys each go 1-1 in annual Wood City Classic

Once winter break was well under way, it was back to the hardwood for both the Cloquet girls and boys basketball teams, as they each took part in the annual Wood City Classic Holiday Basketball Tournament last Monday and Tuesday in Cloquet.

Once winter break was well under way, it was back to the hardwood for both the Cloquet girls and boys basketball teams, as they each took part in the annual Wood City Classic Holiday Basketball Tournament last Monday and Tuesday in Cloquet.

The always-entertaining event took place at Cloquet High School, where the four-team girls field featured the host Lumberjacks, Superior (Wis.), St. Michael-Albertville and St. Paul Humboldt, while the boys bracket included Cloquet, Blake, Grand Rapids and St. Paul Humboldt.

The Lumberjack girls were in action first, edging Superior 55-51 in a thrilling Lake Superior Conference clash Monday evening.

The 'Jacks (4-5 overall; 3-1 Lake Superior Conference) came out of the gates quickly and jumped to an early 15-point advantage, leading 23-8 in the beginning of the first half.

However, the Spartans closed the gap by scoring 15 of the last 25 points and Cloquet walked into the locker room with a 33-23 lead over Superior.

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The second frame saw Superior inch even closer to the 'Jacks, as they trailed by just one point with 15 seconds on the clock; but a technical foul on the Spartans and some clutch free-throw shooting paced the Lumberjacks to the victory.

Senior forward Taylor Sautbine guided the Cloquet attack with a game-high 19 points on shooting 9-for-11 from the field. Sophomore center Annabel Morrisroe posted a double-double in the victory by scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while senior guard Jes Vork racked up 10 points against the Spartans.

"A win against a good team like Superior is a win, no matter how pretty it is," said Cloquet head coach Jeff Ojanen. "We made some mistakes, but the girls kept battling and got the job done."

Monday's nightcap featured the Lumberjack boys against the Hawks of St. Paul Humboldt, in which Cloquet used their outside shooting and solid defense to defeat the "Cities" boys 68-53.

Cloquet (3-6 overall; 2-0 Lake Superior Conference) came out strong in front of a packed house, cruising to a 40-18 lead at halftime by shooting an eye-popping 71 percent from both the field and beyond the arc.

However, after the break, the Lumberjacks 22-point lead was cut to single digits as the Hawks caught fire. But Cloquet's sheer size and down-low style of play proved to be too much for the small Humboldt squad.

Cloquet was paced by their all-star 6-foot-10 junior center, Chad Calcaterra, who tallied a team-leading 25 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, while junior forward RaRa Jones collected 15 points, 10 boards and eight assists. Fellow junior forward Peter LaCourse also chipped in 15 points, as the sharp-shooter canned five shots from downtown on the night.

Tuesday's final day of the tournament saw the Cloquet girls in the title match against a tough St. Michael-Albertville squad, where the 'Jacks lost a tight back-and-forth game 71-50.

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The title contest started quickly, as each club see-sawed up and down the floor with each other. In a game where both teams displayed their fast-paced style of play, the Lumberjacks were the ones who found themselves trailing the Knights 34-26 at the end of the first half.

The second half saw the 'Jacks continue to force the ball into the paint, but St. Michael's continuous attack wore out foul-troubled Cloquet, as they outscored the 'Jacks 37-24 throughout the frame to run away with the championship.

The 'Jacks were again paced by Sautbine, who scored a team-high 18 points and ripped down six boards, while Morrisroe and junior guard Brianna Henagin each ended with 10 points in the box score.

Though Cloquet couldn't get over the hump against the Knights for the title, Ojanen was not disappointed with the performance of his team.

"Our post-play is getting a lot better and our defense is making teams work for every point they get," said Ojanen. "But we definitely need to work on taking better care of the ball and staying out of foul trouble."

The Cloquet boys concluded the tournament with a matchup against Blake, in which the Lumberjacks blew a second half lead to fall to the Bears 60-54.

The close game, which consisted of five ties and three lead changes, started fast right after the opening tip with the 'Jacks and Bears trading buckets with each other throughout the half. As the first buzzer rang, Cloquet was atop Blake by just three points, 27-24.

The second frame continued much like the first as each squad went basket-for-basket. Roughly halfway through the second half, however, with the 'Jacks up by a narrow margin, Blake nailed three consecutive three-pointers to put the game out of reach.

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Cloquet was again guided by Calcaterra - who is averaging a double-double this season - as he dispatched a solid 20 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots, while Jones added 11 points and 11 rebounds and senior guard Dedric Clark totaled eight points in the non-conference loss.

However, Lumberjack head coach Steve Battaglia wasn't displeased with the efforts of his young team that only returned a pair of kids with varsity experience.

"We're a little inexperienced and we are going to go through some growing pains," said Battaglia. "But we definitely need to focus our defense, rebounding and blocking out."

On the girls side, Sautbine - who led all players in scoring (18.5 ppg) - and Vork, received All-Tournament Team honors for their stellar efforts, while for the boys, Calcaterra - who scored more points (22.5 ppg), grabbed more rebounds (13.5 rpg) and blocked more shots (6.0 bpg) than anyone in the field - was named to the All-Tourney team as well.

  • The girls - who downed International Falls 70-37 on Saturday - were back in Lake Superior Conference action Tuesday, routing Duluth Denfeld 54-44 in a game that saw Vork sink 16 points, including a pair of three-pointers, to lift the visiting Lumberjacks past the Hunters in an LSC game. Morrisroe added 12 points for Cloquet (5-5, 3-1). Madison Pertler led all scorers with 18 points for Denfeld (4-7, 1-3). Cloquet's next four contests will be on the road.

"One of our goals is to win the conference," said Ojanen. "Overall, we need to work on a lot of things, but I'm very happy with where we are at right now."

  • The boys were defeated 87-56 to second-ranked Pelican Rapids on Saturday as part of the 13th annual Gatorade-Timberwolves Shootout at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Guard Tydan Storrusten of Pelican Rapids led the Vikings with a game-high 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Seven of Storrusten's field goals, and 18 of his points, were recorded in the first half as the Vikings surged into halftime ahead 49-25. Cloquet committed 15 first-half turnovers (23 in all), and Pelican Rapids capitalized. In the second half, Cloquet found some success with Calcaterra, who tallied 15 of his 21 points over the last 18 minutes of play and collected 10 rebounds.
"We had matchup problems," said Battaglia, who said his Lumberjacks had the edge in experience. "[The Vikings] moved well without the ball on offense, and they are a senior-dominated team."

  • Tuesday night the Cloquet boys defeated Duluth Central 66-46 with a game-high 43 points by Calcaterra. Jones added 10 as the host Lumberjacks (4-6 overall, 3-0 Lake Superior Conference) topped the Trojans (0-7, 0-2). Ben Poppen led Central with 17 points, including four three-pointers.

Cloquet will face the Bluejackets of Hibbing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8.
"We've dropped some games to some good teams, but we're still learning," said Battaglia. "We're keeping our heads high and we want to be there in the end to have something to play for."

Eric Walsh of the Minnesota Timberwolves contributed to this story.

Related Topics: BASKETBALLCLOQUET
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