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'Jacks split with Hibbing, Virginia

The Cloquet boys basketball team geared up for the sectional playoffs on Saturday and Monday with games against Hibbing and Virginia. Monday the Jacks fended off Virginia 66-61 and on Saturday it was a tough 54-49 loss to the Bluejackets.

The Cloquet boys basketball team geared up for the sectional playoffs on Saturday and Monday with games against Hibbing and Virginia. Monday the Jacks fended off Virginia 66-61 and on Saturday it was a tough 54-49 loss to the Bluejackets.

Against Virginia the Jacks took a 34-21 halftime lead and then had to hold off the Blue Devils, who outscored Cloquet 40-32 in the second half.

"We played a good first half and did enough to hold on," said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia. "Virginia is a team that has been to two consecutive section finals, so it's a nice win."

Leading Cloquet were Ryan Erkkila with 19 points, Andy Kochneff with 14, Cory Koning added 11, Ryan Lindstrom finished with 12 and Derek Johnson finished with 10 points.

"If we could have hit some more free throws down the stretch it wouldn't have gotten so complicated," mentioned Battaglia. "We've been getting some good solid efforts from Ryan Lindstrom and Derek Johnson and that has helped us win some games."

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Joey Vucich led the Blue Devils with 21 points and Craig Skalko finished with 17 points.

"I think Cory Koning has also been the difference in a few of the last games," explained Battaglia. "He's got the ability to get the ball to the glass off the dribble. We've still got a couple of other young guys and a kid coming back from an injury that are working in there, so we're comfortable with our rotation of about seven to eight guys."

  • On Saturday the Jacks fell to Hibbing 54-49 in a game with important seeding ramifications.

"It was a big game for us as we could have been playing for a home seed in the playoffs with a win," remarked Battaglia. "With the loss we are going to Grand Rapids on Wednesday for the opening round of the playoffs."
Kochneff and Erkkila led the Jacks with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

"We just weren't very sharp," commented Battaglia. "We missed a ton of easy buckets and had 12 to 15 layups rim out. It wasn't that we couldn't get good shots, we just didn't finish. That's going to happen every now and then."

The Jacks finished the regular season at 11-15.

Pine Journal sports reporter Kerry Rodd can be contacted at: kdrodd@aol.com .

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