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Fouls plague teams in Cards-Wrens matchup

Cromwell-Wright's Marcus Pocernich makes a layup past the defense of Wrenshall's Jared Kelley. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal1 / 2
Wrenshall's Tyler Kelley scores in front of Cromwell-Wright's Jaden Gronner on Friday, Dec. 22. Kelley scored 13 points in the 68-53 Cardinal win. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal2 / 2

The Cromwell-Wright and Wrenshall boys basketball teams like to play high tempo, but on Friday, Dec. 22, the Cardinals came away with a 68-53 victory after the game was tied at halftime.

"Both teams wanted to pick up full court defensively and play uptempo offensively," Cards coach Bill Pocernich said. "Both teams committed a lot of fouls, which disrupted the flow and the preferred lineups for both teams, but overall, it was a fun game."

Wrenshall coach Jon Bartczak said the Cromwell gymnasium is "always a tough place to play."

"This game was no different," he said. "It was a packed house. We knew it was going to be a tough game going into the season and we know what Cromwell's team consists of."

The game was knotted up at 34-34 at halftime, but the Cards slowly pulled away in the second half to the 15-point victory by outscoring Wrenshall 34-19. Leading the offensive charge for the Cards was Micah Pocernich with 26 points, Drew Libbon with 16 and Jaden Gronner with 10.

"We did a better job of controlling dribble penetration in the second half," Pocernich said. "We also made shots down the stretch. They had a few rim out and that provided the final cushion for us."

The Cards did a better job of protecting the ball in the second half. Both teams' quickness created turnovers and fouls.

"Cromwell is a well-rounded team and similar to us," Bartczak said. "We had prepped for their press and that didn't really give us problems, but it did slow the pace a little bit. Their man-to-man defense was very physical and we haven't had a matchup like that yet this year."

Leading Wrenshall in scoring were Nick Mattson and Tyler Kelley with 18 and 13 points, respectively.

"Wrenshall is very athletic and quick," Pocernich said. "They have multiple scorers offensively and they pressure well defensively."

Joining the scoring parade for the Cards were Cameron Cahoon with eight points, Marcus Pocernich with five, Isaac Shelton with two and Cayden Karppinen with one.

"Drew (Libbon) has been very effective offensively in recent games of picking his spots to attack," Pocernich said. "Drew has hit some big shots for us and he has played well defensively, while Micah has been scoring well all year and that continued on Friday night."

Rounding out the scoring for the Wrens were Randy Wimmer and Eli Krisak with six points each, Jared Kelley with five, Danny Merrill with four and Chase Duncan with one.

"We are not where we would like to be and we are not firing on all cylinders," Bartczak said. "We have plenty of little mistakes in each game that we can work on."

After opening with a loss to Barnum, the Cards have now reeled off five-straight wins. They were scheduled to play in Cloquet at the Wood City Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 27, as the Pine Journal went to press, and Thursday, Dec. 28.

"Christmas break will provide us two great opportunities to compete against Cloquet and Duluth Denfeld," Pocernich said. "They provide some daunting matchup issues for us, but those types of games will make us better in the long run."

The Wrens (4-1) are scheduled to play Northland on Tuesday, Jan. 2, in Remer.