Girls basketball: Kukuk’s clutch scoring lifts Rebels over Floodwood

Late run gives Moose Lake-Willow River a needed win over Floodwood; next game is Tuesday, Jan. 21 at Greenway.

Moose Lake-Willow River's Maci Kukuk puts up a shot past Floodwood's Kennedi Johnson during the Rebels' 55-53 home win Thursday, Jan. 16. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Moose Lake-Willow River’s Maci Kukuk only scored 10 points, but seven of those points came during a critical run that powered the Rebels to a 55-53 win over Floodwood Thursday, Jan. 16, in Moose Lake.

Down 37-30 with about 10 minutes left in the game, the Rebels went on an 18-2 run. Kukuk scored seven during that stretch — including layups from steals on consecutive Polar Bear possessions.

“(Kukuk’s) got very good instincts and she’s a very good defender in the open court,” MLWR coach Padrick Judd said. “What people don’t understand about her game is once she gets on a roll, she’s tough to stop.”

The Rebels started the game strong when sophomore Natalie Mikrot scored 11 points and hit three 3-pointers to give them a 23-14 lead.


Moose Lake-Willow River's Natalie Mikrot scores while being fouled by Floodwood's Haley Bergin during the Rebels' home win Thursday, Jan. 16. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

The offense stalled late in the first half. Floodwood’s Kennedi Johnson scored seven of her game-high 20 points during a 10-0 run to close the half with the Rebels trailing 24-23.

Johnson scored the first five points of the second half. The lead eventually stretched to seven.

MLWR fought back with the 18-2 run that featured Kukuk’s heroics and gave the Rebels a 48-39 lead with less than five minutes to play.

“With a couple shots going in like that, you have to hope they are going to stay mentally tough and not let it bother them — and they did,” Judd said. “It was just good fight that we haven’t seen out of them in a few games ... They did a nice job responding, and I was very proud of them.”

Floodwood closed the gap to 53-50 with 3-pointers from Johnson and Darby Autio, but Mikrot hit a pair of free throws with 13.5 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Johnson hit a final shot from long range to cut the lead to two, but time ran out before the Polar Bears could get another possession.

Mikrot finished with 16 points to lead the Rebels.


MLWR (8-6) is next scheduled to travel to Greenway for a game at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Floodwood 24-29—53

Moose Lake-WR 23-32—55

Floodwood — Kennedi Johnson 20, Darby Autio 13, Katelyn Bergin 10, Heather Striowski 6, CJ Thompson 2, Tamera Lundstrom 2. Totals 21 4-14 53.

3-point goals — Johnson 5, Autio 2

Moose Lake-Willow River — Natalie Mikrot 16, Maci Kukuk 10, Alivia Mallory 9, Emily Bohnsack 8, Monica Mikrot 6, Ella Rhoades 4, Kelli Granquist 2. Totals 18 13-21 55.

3-point goals — N. Mikrot 3, M. Mikrot 2, Mallory.


Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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