GIRLS BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: ’Jacks ‘steal’ win on Rebels’ unbeaten home court
MOOSE LAKE -- Kaylee McMillen isn't the biggest girls' basketball player on the court. In fact, more times than not, the 5-foot-2 Cloquet senior guard is often the smallest.
MOOSE LAKE - Kaylee McMillen isn’t the biggest girls’ basketball player on the court. In fact, more times than not, the 5-foot-2 Cloquet senior guard is often the smallest.
Yet, it was as small a play as a steal - and the ensuing layup - that proved to be the biggest spark in the Lumberjacks’ 51-40 comeback win at Moose Lake Tuesday.
Plagued by a slow start, Cloquet (12-13) tied it 22-22 when McMillen assisted eighth-grader Kendra Kelley in the closing seconds of the first half. Just instants later, McMillen swiped the ball from the Rebels, looked up at the scoreboard and sped in for a left-side layup before the buzzer.
The go-ahead score sent cheers across the Lumberjacks’ bench, including a large fist-pump from Coach Jeff Ojanen.
“That’s a senior play,” Ojanen said afterward of McMillen’s momentum-turning efforts that gave Cloquet a 24-22 halftime advantage. “Her motor’s always going, 100 miles per hour every time she’s on the floor. Whether it’s practice or a game, she’s doing it the right way. It shows. She works for everything she gets. She made a [heck] of a play.”
McMillen, a three-sport athlete who also runs cross country and pitches on the softball team, has a bulldog-like mentality on the court. Off it, she is modest and humble. McMillen said afterward that she was just trying to fire up her team.
“That first half nothing was working for us,” admitted McMillen. “Coach is always talking to us about leaders - someone who wants to start something. I just took a shot.”
ML-WR, which led 18-9 early before Cloquet’s 21-4 spurt - including a 13-0 run stretching from both halves headed by McMillen - had shots to even things in the second, but couldn’t. The Rebels (17-8), which suffered their first home defeat in 12 events this season, climbed within four points twice following the visitors’ surge, but never got any closer.
ML-WR Coach Joe Adamczak had no comment after the game.
Meanwhile, all-time leading scorer and rebounder, senior Adri Jusczak, had 12 points to pace the Rebels, yet was below average, hounded by Cloquet eighth-grader Allie Wojtysiak.
The Lumberjacks were led by junior Kassidy Steen’s game-high 15 points, while classmate Anna Fossen had 12 and McMillen 14, making 12-of-13 free-throws to ice it late.
Eight of those free-throws for the give-me-the-ball-type player came following halftime and her game-winning steal.
“It was a good play,” said ML-WR junior Ava Szczyrbak.
“We were so fired up, there was so much energy in there,” added Fossen of an upbeat locker room at half and after the win. “[Kaylee] is probably the hardest worker on our team.”
Barnum (17-8) beat host East Central 61-29 last Friday, as the Bombers remained hot, having now won four in a row.
Carlton (3-20) couldn’t keep up with Polar League host Floodwood in a 67-49 defeat last Thursday for the Bulldogs.
Cromwell-Wright (22-2) continued its winning ways, easing by host East Central 73-30 Tuesday for a 12th straight.
Esko (21-4) ended a four-game win spurt with their 49-39 loss to Duluth East Saturday for the Class AA No. 8 Eskomos.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (9-9) remained idle over the week. The Ogichidaa sit competitively at the Mendoza line of .500.
South Ridge (17-6) rolled by Northeast Range 63-58 Monday in Babbitt, as the Panthers picked up another victory.
Wrenshall (3-21) won for the first time in 15 games when they pounded Polar League host Silver Bay 64-39 last Friday.
FDLTCC (6-19) finished its winter season with a 60-56 league victory at Rainy River Saturday. The Thunder women closed their year with three consecutive wins. The men meanwhile, lost to the host Voyageurs 91-82 to complete their season at 5-19.