Basketball: 7 players reach 1,000-point milestone; others in hunt
As an assistant coach for the Cloquet girls basketball team for the past three years, I also double as the program's statistician, constantly counting up and confirming our squad's latest numbers.
Each rebound, assist and steal I mark. Twos, threes, free-throws — every shot and point I tally, and enjoy it. Locked in an old-school, yet effective method of my own, pencils, paper and a handheld calculator are my best friends from November to March.
And while March Madness is still a month out, we've already had plenty of points to please us basketball-junkies' entertainment. In fact, 1,000-point scorers are at all-time high in our tiny county this winter, with a new one each week. Literally.
Within the last six days alone, Cromwell-Wright's Micah Pocernich poured in his 1,000th, as the dynamic junior did so on a layup Saturday, Feb. 2, against Moose Lake-Willow River. Two days later, Barnum's Mallory Agurkis made her memorable bucket when the sharp-shooting senior sank a free throw Monday, Feb. 4.
Meanwhile, Cloquet three-sport standout Kendra Kelley currently has 989 career points as the senior seeks to become the latest to join the club, likely on Thursday, Feb. 7, versus Hibbing, or Saturday, Feb. 9, at Grand Rapids, needing just 11 points for the milestone.
Similarly, Kelley would join classmate Allie Wojtysiak in the feat, as the fellow senior solidified her grand-totaling basket on Jan. 10 at Hermantown, before a sea of friends and family in attendance, all wearing white commemorative 1,000 point T-shirts.
Wojtysiak was the fifth local to net her nostalgic hoop this season following South Ridge's Celia Olesiak on Dec. 20, Cromwell-Wright's Taya Hakamaki on Jan. 4, Esko's Bridget Yellin on Jan. 7 and Wrenshall's Randy Wimmer on Jan. 14.
Thus, between Olesiak first scoring the the accomplishment and Agurkis adding the latest, our county has impressively accounted for seven 1,000-point producers in the last seven weeks.
That's as often as the Pine Journal hits the newsstands. And there will be more.
Speaking of more points, these seven scoring sensations are worth a ticket to see and rightfully so. In total, Hakamaki (1,218), Olesiak (1,174), Yellin (1,124), Wimmer (1,113), Wojtysiak (1,111), Pocernich (1,025) and Agurkis (1,000) have combined for 7,765 points — and counting.
Hakamaki has counted the most points since taking photos with her celebratory sign in Pine River, Minn., as the do-it-all junior has piled in 218 points in eight games, or just north of 27 a night.
That's saying a lot, especially since the skilled guard missed essentially her entire sophomore season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
Back at full health, Taya became the third Hakamaki to score 1,000, including her older sister, Teana, and current teammate and cousin, Shaily.
Shaily Hakamaki scored her 1,000th a season ago and currently owns 1,366 points to her name. Both she and Taya will likely get to 2,000-plus before their prep days are over, with another year left.
Impressively, coach Jeff Gronner noted that all of the starters from his 2016-17 state squad surpassed 1,000, including his daughter, Bailey Gronner, Chelsea Swatek and the trio of Hakamakis, still around.
Meanwhile, at South Ridge, the senior Olesiak continues to add to her count, while Celia's younger sister, eighth-grader Adella, is already following in her sibling's footsteps by scoring plenty of buckets for their father and coach, Brad Olesiak.
Celia Olesiak is the seventh Panther in the young school history to eclipse the mark, joining RyAnna Anvid, Krystal Karppinen, older sister Mikayla Olesiak and boys Dominic Janke, Christian Houle and Nick Carlson from a year ago.
Over in Esko, the 6-foot-1 senior Yellin was the latest to shoot into the Eskomos' lengthy career scoring list, while junior Kristy DeMuth (579 career points) will likely be the next to follow suit a season from now.
Senior Macy Sunnarborg (805) can also score, while classmate Camden Berger (904) should soon hit the mark for the boys when returned from injuries next week.
At ML-WR, sophomore boys Brady Watrin (494) and Mason Olson (460) are a pair of young net-torchers, likely to hit the milestone next season, only to tack on more as their careers press on.
On the girls' end, freshman phenom Natalie Mikrot (886) is on pace to potentially get 1,000 by this postseason. If Mikrot stays healthy, she's likely to shatter the school record in scoring for both boys or girls, set at 1,848 points by Geoff Probst in 2005.
Up the road in Barnum, Agurkis adds in with plenty of thousand-point talliers listed on the school's rafter-hanging banner, while freshman Reese Miletich can also pour it in like her older sister, Emily, who scored 2,000-plus points.
For the boys, the last 1,000-point player was Brandon Newman — now a senior playing at St. Scholastica — who set the Bombers' all-time school record at 2,434 points not too far back.
Across the way to Wrenshall, Wimmer is just a junior, so he still has time to pad his mark, while girls coach Sheri Nelson noted sophomore Hailey Tauzell has the best shot to join their last pair of 1,000-pointer players, Delaney Kittel and Shauna Laveau, both from three seasons ago.
At Carlton, an abundance of athletes are playing for the girls, including the likes of junior trio Alaina Bennett and twin sisters Brynne and Abby Mickle, while brotherly pair Jacob and Matt Santkuyl can also score, all of whom are potentially seeking to join former Bulldog point-piling greats.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe's been known to score too, as both boys coach Earl Otis and girls coach Travis Brown have some options to potentially add to former Ogichidaag achievers, including Jordan Diver, who scored his 1,000th at the small tribal school about a half-decade ago now.
Diver actually spent time between both FDL and Cloquet throughout his career, starting and finishing as a Lumberjack.
Cloquet boys coach Steve Battaglia added that the latest one-grand totalers for him were Adam Laine and Chad Calcaterra, while on the girls' end, Kelley and Wojtysiak would accompany recent milestone-holder, Kassidy Steen, currently a junior playing at St. Cloud State.
And while the state has a number of prolific prep scorers, it's the scorers and numbers our little county has put up this winter that has been plenty of fun to watch.
Even more so, getting to tally up a pair myself, with my pencil, paper and nerdy calculator.
So keep on scoring gang. And I'll just keep on adding.
In the hunt in 2018-19
- Kendra Kelley, Sr., Cloquet (989)
- Camden Berger, Sr., Esko (904)
- Natalie Mikrot, Fr., ML-WR (886)
- Macy Sunnarborg, Sr., Esko (805)