CARLTON - While playing in just her first Brown Jug game against rival Wrenshall last year, Carlton's Jordan Hyry had only a mere two points.
Earlier this week, the Bulldog senior quintupled her point production and didn't waste time getting her two hands on the tiny towns' most coveted trophy.
"Since elementary school, I've wanted to play in the jug game," said Hyry, who finished with 10 points to help lead the Bulldogs by the Wrens 57-42 before a crowded Carlton gym Monday, Jan. 14. "It just means so much for both Carlton and Wrenshall."
That is does, as for nearly seven decades, the pair of small schools separated by just 4 miles along Minnesota Highway 1 have been playing for bragging rights, and ultimately, ownership of the jug. The boys' jug has been swapping between the two since 1951, and the girls' since the 1980s.
With scores marked on each side of the memento, the decorative boys' jug comes in around 30 pounds. While the girls' weighs closer to 5, the will to win it, nonetheless, was the scene Monday.
Carlton scored first on Kaylee Asleson's bucket, and the Bulldogs jumped to an early lead, held a 31-17 advantage at halftime, and never looked back in retaining the trophy under first-year coach Lucas Beireis.
"It's a big deal," Beireis said. "You realize that when get here."
Beireis is originally from Alexandria, Minn. The 26-year-old said there are rivalries out in that western part of the state, but it's hard to match the passion the Bulldogs and Wrens have when the two collide in any sport.
"Everyone wants to win it," Hyry said. "As long as I can remember, it's meant a lot."
Like Beireis on the sidelines, it was also Asleson's first jug game to play in, and the junior didn't disappoint. While the 5-foot-6 right-hander hit the game's opening basket, she joined Hyry and classmate Abby Mickle with a team-high 10 points on an evening in which nine Bulldogs scored.
"I didn't want to lose it," Asleson said. "It means a lot to our school and our community."
For the Bulldogs (10-5), it's a victory that now marks their fourth in sixth games, not long after a five-game winning spurt this season. For a team that won just 13 times last year, Carlton is well on their way to surpass that mark and perhaps pose a sneaky squad in Section 7A come March.
"The girls work their tails off," Beireis said. "We can play with the talented teams; it's just about finishing. We need a 36-minute game if we want to do some damage. And the girls know we can."
Wrenshall sure played all 36 minutes Monday, even down to the game's final buzzer, when sophomore Hailey Tauzell nailed a 3-pointer atop the key, giving her a game-high 17 points and the Wrens (1-13) another cheer from their never-quitting sideline.
"We want to push to the end," Tauzell, in her fourth year on varsity.
All of those years have been under 10th-year coach Sheri Nelson, who was noticeably animated Monday, making plenty of encouraging fist pumps throughout the night.
"If I have to dance and act like a fool, I will. It's something I'm passionate about and I absolutely love these girls," said Nelson, whose team's 42 points was their second-highest output this winter. "These are small successes. I'm just so proud of them."
Wrenshall - Alexis Perry 2, Hannah Lattu 4, Jordyn Seehus 5, Hailey Tauzell 17, April Lattu 9, Taylor Bryce 5. Totals 16 6-9 42.
3-point goals - Tauzell, Lattu 3.
Carlton - Kaylee Asleson 10, Brynne Mickle 6, Abby Mickle 10, Alaina Bennett 4, Isabella Anderson 3, Elizabeth Hey 5, Sam Matarelli 6, Nicole Nilsen 3, Jordan Hyry 10. Totals 22 9-12 57.
3-point goals - Asleson, Hey, Anderson, Nilsen.