Boys basketball: Thompson, East ease by Lumberjacks

Greyhounds in control throughout, beat Lumberjacks 81-56

Cloquet’s Alec Burnbull (15) tries to get up a shot between Duluth East’s Noah Paulson (32) and Giovani Saldivar (5) in the first half of the Lumberjacks’ game at East High School on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 21. (Jed Carlson /

Despite Mattie Thompson tallying 23 points in a win over city rival Duluth Denfeld last week, Duluth East boys basketball coach Rhett McDonald was quick to note his junior felt he didn’t have a game up to his standards.

His very next contest, the 6-foot-6 guard had never played better.

Thompson poured in a career-high 34 points, as the Greyhounds cruised past Cloquet 81-56 on Saturday, Dec. 21, at Duluth East High School.

Of those most pleased was McDonald, who watched his do-it-all playmaker score from the field, behind the arc, and even on a slam dunk, beginning at the top of the key where Thompson tore past would-be Lumberjack defenders to score with authority.

“That kind of surprised me,” admitted McDonald of the jam. “I’ve never seen him do that.”


Thompson was 13-for-15 shooting from the field, good for 87 percent.

“He’s pretty complete,” said Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia, who played football at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The Thompson-led Greyhounds gathered a 52-28 halftime lead and stayed in control throughout the game. Duluth East (5-1) is off to a fast start, their lone blemish a 69-65 loss to Cambridge-Isanti, coached by Rhett’s father, Mike McDonald.

In addition to Thompson — who hit four 3-pointers against Cloquet — Giovani Saldivar added 13 points and three triples, while Joe Vos chipped in 10 points.

Paulson, who nearly averaged a double-double last season, finished with just four points.

That’s a credit to the Lumberjacks (1-6), who despite their unmistakable lack of size, competed valiantly. They were without senior Markus Pokornowski, who just two days earlier split open his left eye against Chisago Lakes and had to get five stitches. Battaglia said he will likely return for their Wood City Classic on Dec. 27-28.

After all, in Cloquet’s lone win this winter — 83-67 over Denfeld — Pokornowski scored 38 points, the most by a Lumberjack since Chad Calcaterra’s 40-plus against Virginia in 2009. That same night against Denfeld, smooth-moving junior Adam Schneider added 24. The pair of 6-footers totaled 62 points together.

Against East, Schneider finished with 12 points, while junior classmate Dylan Heehn had 11.


“We’re just trying to find that third and fourth scorer,” said Battaglia.

While Cloquet has scored 62 points per game, they have allowed 82.9 — the third most in Class AAA. Much of that is due to the talented foes the Lumberjacks have faced to start, or a “gauntlet” of a beginning as Battaglia said.

“Every team we’re playing has scholarship guys on it,” said Battaglia. “We’re not thrilled with where our record is at now, but we’re not losing to bad teams. Our schedule softens up a bit, so hopefully we can get some wins and get rolling.

“Our guys play hard every night, I can guarantee that,” Battaglia continued. “I just can’t guarantee they will play smart. We’re working on that. The next month or two will be telling.”

And McDonald sure isn’t betting against Battaglia’s boys in purple and white.

“At the end of the year, Steve always has his guys ready,” said McDonald. “They can shoot the basketball. And, when they play hard, which they will at the end of year, it’s not a team I would want to match up with. If I’m in (Section) 7AAA, I don’t want to play them.”

Cloquet 28-28—56
Duluth East 52-29—81

Cloquet — Tyler Issendorf 5, Adam Schneider 12, Jordan Diver 9, Kade Clemens 5, Alec Turnbull 6, Dylan Heehn 11, Nate Blatchford 4, Orville Councillor 4. Totals 23 3-4 56.


3-point goals — Diver 3, Issendorf, Clemens, Heehn, Councillor.

Duluth East — Zaa Buffalo 7, Giovani Saldivar 13, Will Van Scoy 7, Joe Vos 10, Simon Randorf 5, Mattie Thompson 34, Noah Paulson 4, Luke Lieberz 1. Totals 32 7-10 81.

3-point goals — Thompson 4, Saldivar 3, Vos 2, Van Scoy.

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