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Section 7AAA semifinal: Thunderhawks chop down Lumberjacks

Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com Grand Rapids' Taryn Hamling (21), Cloquet's Alexa Snesrud (22) and Kate Owens (12) fall to the ground as they wrestle over the ball in the first half of a Section 7AAA semifinal at Duluth Denfeld on Saturday. 1 / 3
Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com Grand Rapids' Taryn Hamling (21) and Cloquet's Kate Owens (12) compete for a rebound in the second half of a Section 7AAA semifinal at Duluth Denfeld on Saturday. 2 / 3
Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com Cloquet's Maddie Young (20) tries to stop a shot by Grand Rapids' Mya Roberts (10) in the second half of a Section 7AAA semifinal at Duluth Denfeld on Saturday. 3 / 3

Grand Rapids girls basketball coach Kris Hamling approached senior Hannah DeMars earlier this week and told her she'd be guarding Cloquet's powerful 6-foot forward Allie Wojtysiak.

"I wasn't thrilled," DeMars said.

DeMars is normally a guard, but with Grand Rapids senior center Meara Beighley out with an ankle injury, it's all hands on deck for the Thunderhawks.

DeMars scored 21 points and more than held her own defensively in leading Grand Rapids to a 62-48 victory over the Lumberjacks in the Section 7AAA semifinals Saturday, March 2, at Duluth Denfeld. The Thunderhawks led 39-20 at the half.

"We just came out really strong," DeMars said. "And once we do get that lead, we know what to do with it, we're really comfortable with it, but give Cloquet credit. They started to get their offense going. They didn't quit."

The top-seeded Thunderhawks (19-8) advanced to play Hibbing (26-2) on Thursday, March 7, in the section final.

Maddie Young's 3-point play with 7:53 remaining cut the lead to 47-40, but the Lumberjacks could get no closer.

Cloquet graduates seven seniors, including four starters, but have a nice player to build around in Young, a ninth-grader who paced the Lumberjacks (16-12) with 11 points. Kendra Kelley added 10 points and Wojtysiak had eight, seven below her average, while adding 14 rebounds.

Cloquet was just 17-for-60 from the field, including 0-for-11 from 3-point range.

"Unfortunately, the ball just didn't drop in the hoop for us," said Cloquet coach Heather Young, Maddie's mother. "When you shoot 27 percent from the field, that's a game-changer."

It's been quite the crop of multisport athletes for Cloquet.

Wojtysiak (1,233) and cousins Kendra Kelley (1,042) and Vanna Kelley (786) combined for 3,061 points in their five-year careers for the Lumberjacks. Wojtysiak will play NAIA basketball at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., while Vanna Kelley is off to Mayville (N.D.) State. Kendra Kelley will run track at NCAA Division I North Dakota State.

"We'll have a lot of open spots on the roster next year, but we'll be OK," Heather Young said. "It's always hard saying goodbye. They're just all-around great kids, but they left an example for the younger players to follow."

Cloquet 20-28—48

Grand Rapids 39-23—62

Cloquet — Kate Owens 6, Kendra Kelley 10, Maddie Young 11, Alexa Snesrud 8, Vanna Kelley 3, Allie Wojtysiak 8, Olivia Diver 2. Totals 17 14-25 48.

3-point goals — None.

Grand Rapids — Liberty Blaine 5, Mya Roberts 9, Hannah DeMars 21, Taryn Hamling 7, Maddi McKinney 4, Jenny Bowman 2, Emily Wochnick 14. Totals 23 7-16 62.

3-point goals — Blaine, Roberts, DeMars 2, Hamling, Wochnick 4.