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'Jacks fall in quarterfinals

Cloquet girls' basketball coach Heather Young talks to the Lumberjacks' team during a timeout in the Thursday, Feb. 22, basketball game with Eveleth-Gilbert.1 / 5
Cloquet girls' basketball seniors (from left) Kat Welman, Carmen Foss, Hailey Giacomini and student manager Destiney Isaacson pose for a photo before the Thursday, Feb. 22, senior night game against Eveleth-Gilbert.2 / 5
Cloquet's Allie Wojtysiak makes a layup over Eveleth-Gilbert's Amara Wilcox.3 / 5
Cloquet's Abbey Collins shoots in front of Eveleth-Gilbert's Audrey Delich.4 / 5
Cloquet's Carmen Foss scores despite three Eveleth-Gilbert players during the Lumberjacks senior night win Thursday, Feb. 22. Photos by Dave Harwig/Pine Journal5 / 5

In the end, an old bugaboo helped doom the chances of Cloquet's girls' basketball team in the Section 7AA quarterfinals Tuesday, Feb. 27.

"Our turnovers," coach Heather Young said after her team's 48-44 loss to the Hibbing Bluejackets. "That definitely hurt us. It hurt us all season."

Cloquet led 38-31 with less than 10 minutes to play, but couldn't seal the deal on a night that saw them turn the ball over 20 times.

"We averaged 18 turnovers a game," Young said. "We knew that turnovers would kill us if we had a bad game in that department and unfortunately, that's what happened."

Carmen Foss scored 19 points for Cloquet in her final high school game, while Vanna Kelley added 12 more. But Abbey McDonald, daughter of former Chisholm scoring legend Joel McDonald and granddaughter of legendary coach Bob McDonald, scored 18 to lead the Bluejackets.

Meanwhile, the 'Jacks had a lot of trouble with 1-2-2 backcourt pressure, which added to their woes.

"We took a time out and drew up their (Hibbing's) play for the kids to see," Young said. "Sometimes that helped, sometimes it didn't."

Cloquet had three 10-second violations in the game, a turnover assessed when a team with the ball fails to advance it past the center line within the allotted time period.

"You don't see a lot of that," Young said. "We just had to get it into the kids' minds that they could break the press and didn't need to panic."

Once Cloquet did get the ball into the front court, they did just fine for themselves. All of Vanna Kelley's points were scored from beyond the 3-point arc but in the end, the Bluejackets proved too much.

"When we played them here earlier in the season we lost by 15, so we came a long way," Young said.

But it wasn't as though the team didn't have plenty to cheer about. Cloquet (17-10) had a strong season.

"I'm very proud of the girls," Young said. "We played a great defensive game, there was a lot of back and forth. But we think about those turnovers and wonder what might have been."

Cloquet loses three seniors, including Foss, to graduation.

"I know there are a few schools who would love to have Carmen come play for them," Young said. "She's tall, she plays 'long' and she creates mismatch problems for a lot of teams that we tried to take advantage of."

Hailey Giacomini and Kat Welman are the other departing seniors.

"Hailey was Carmen's backup in the post and knew her role well and gave us good minutes," Young said. "I don't think Kat got as many minutes as she might have wanted this season but you'd never know it by looking at her. She was the perfect teammate and we'll miss her every bit as much."

But Cloquet has a long off-season to think about a 17-win season, which ended with a first-round exit.

"Losses build the most character sometimes," Young said. "The thing is that this loss will sit with the girls and stew a little bit — and it should. We have a good development period over the next year and If these girls grow the confidence to believe they can do it, there's nothing they can't do.

"I hope it's a learning experience," Young added. "I hope it's also fuel to ignite the fire. Our confidence was sometimes a deficit for us, but the players have the skill set to do it."