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'Jacks pound Hunters 55-31 on Homecoming

CLOQUET, Minn. - With the fans packed in the stands, the cameras constantly flashing and the stage brighter than ever, last Friday night marked Homecoming in Cloquet.

CLOQUET, Minn. - With the fans packed in the stands, the cameras constantly flashing and the stage brighter than ever, last Friday night marked Homecoming in Cloquet.

And senior Lumberjack guard Jes Vork played better than ever.

The Homecoming candidate racked up a game-leading 18 points for the 'Jacks, as her scoring and Cloquet's strong defense shut down visiting Duluth Denfeld 55-31 before a capacity-filled gym of Lumberjack faithful.

The always exciting Homecoming affair started quickly in favor of the 'Jacks, as Cloquet (8-8 overall; 6-1 Lake Superior Conference) rattled off the first seven points of the contest, before jumping out to an 18-9 lead halfway through the first frame.

However, the Hunters (4-12; 1-4) managed to climb back into the game as they went neck-and-neck with Cloquet for the last nine minutes, trailing 31-21 at the break.

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After the teams returned from the locker rooms, the 'Jacks were on fire, pouring in the first three baskets of the frame, forcing Duluth Denfeld to burn a timeout to calm the raucous crowd. Cloquet's defense never let up - they held the Hunters to just 10 points in the second half - leading them to their fourth straight conference victory.

"The girls were very excited for the big crowd and definitely came out focused," said Cloquet first-year head coach Jeff Ojanen about his squad. "[Vork] had a great game tonight, she definitely stepped it up for us."

Now that the Lumberjacks have won five of their last eight contests and have a shot at the conference title, Ojanen couldn't be more pleased with the way his team is performing.

"Tonight was another solid conference win," said Ojanen about his club who currently ranks second in the always-tough Lake Superior Conference. "The girls are starting to become comfortable with what I expect and are really starting to execute well."

Other than Vork's game-high 18 points, Cloquet - who has lost just one conference affair this season - was guided by their junior guard Brianna Henagin. Henigin nailed three 3-pointers en route to pouring in 15 points, while senior forward Taylor Sautbine added 10 points and a team-leading nine rebounds on the night.

Junior forward Kialee Kutter and sophomore center Annabel Morrisroe each dispatched four points in the conference win. Both senior guard Hannah Roy and sophomore forward Jenna Beaupre sank baskets for the Lumberjacks.

Duluth Denfeld was paced by their junior center Jesse Havron, who tallied a team-high nine points and nine rebounds for the maroon and gold. Junior forward Madison Pertler - who scorched the 'Jacks for 18 points in their first meeting - was held to just eight rebounds and six points in the loss.

"We still have to cut down on our turnovers and take better care of the ball," said Ojanen about his team's fast-paced transition game. "But right now, the girls are playing really well and I like where we're at."

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Cloquet - who was edged 63-60 by Hibbing Tuesday night - will next host Hermantown - the club that gave them their lone conference defeat - in a battle of Lake Superior Conference kingpins. The game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30. Cloquet welcomes Proctor at 7:30 p.m. the following Tuesday, Feb. 3.

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