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'Jacks try to catch up, but Grand Rapids overpowers

A big first half by Grand Rapids spelled doom for the Cloquet boys basketball team on Wednesday night. The Lumberjacks, playing in the first round of the Section 7AAA boys basketball tournament, fell to the Thunderhawks 68-63 after falling behind...

A big first half by Grand Rapids spelled doom for the Cloquet boys basketball team on Wednesday night. The Lumberjacks, playing in the first round of the Section 7AAA boys basketball tournament, fell to the Thunderhawks 68-63 after falling behind by 18 points at halftime.

"We were totally dominated physically in the first half," recalled Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia after the game. "We ended up winning the second half, but it was too little too late."

Cloquet had trouble matching up against Ryan Gibeau and Brandon Moberg, who finished with 18 and 16 points, respectively, and were far too physical for the Jacks.

"They didn't do anything special. They just went to the hole and dominated the boards in the first half," explained Battaglia. "We had no answer for their physicality! We didn't put bodies on anybody and second-chance points just kept piling up."

After being outscored 35-17 at halftime, the Jacks finished with a 36-33 edge in the second half.

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"We didn't make any special adjustments at halftime," said Battaglia. "We just discussed the need for more aggressive, physical play. We were very tentative in the first half and it cost us."

Cloquet was led in scoring by Ryan Erkkila who finished with 15 points. Cory Koning scored nine, it was eight for Derek Johnson, Andy Kochneff finished with seven, it was Chad Calcaterra with six, Jesse Krzenski scored four and, and Mike Campbell and Justin Schmitz each scored a pair of points.

"We just didn't have a lot of flow on offense and our offensive sets were stagnant while they usually had to make no more than two passes to get to the glass," Battaglia stated. "We've got a good group of kids coming back next year, but I'm extremely disappointed with the way this season unfolded."

The Jacks graduate three players - Jesse Krzenski, Andy Kochneff and Tony Nelson.

"I really feel we ended the season with unfulfilled potential," suggested Battaglia. "We've got to be better than this season, from the top down, starting with me. We have to be better. Like I said, we've got some good kids coming back and I'm excited about what next year could be, but talk is cheap and we've got to walk the walk."

Also in double figures for the Thunderhawks was Nate Drobnick who scored 11 points.

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

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