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Prep girls basketball: Mesabi East stuns Cloquet at Wood City Classic

The Giants advanced to the Wood City Classic championship game with a win over the Lumberjacks.

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Cloquet's Maddie Young drives to the basket during a Wood City Classic tournament game against Mesabi East on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

Upset-minded Mesabi East mounted a 13-point come-from-behind victory at the expense of Cloquet on Tuesday, Dec. 28, in the opening round of the Wood City Classic tournament at Cloquet Middle School.

The Giants were led by 6-foot-2 inch senior Kora Forsline, and 6-foot sophomore Maija Hill, who used their height advantage to wreak havoc on the boards with numerous put-back baskets. Forsline paced Mesabi East in scoring with 18 points, while Hill added 13.

Heading into the matchup, Cloquet coach Heather Young made it a point to prepare for Mesabi East’s size advantage. Unfortunately, the team was unable to execute.

“When they’re 5-foot-11 (inches) to 6-foot, they’re not going to miss those (short shots) very often, because that’s kind of their bread and butter,” Young said. “We just gave them a lot of opportunities tonight, and they capitalized on that.”

Mesabi East struggled to knock down many of its open looks in the first half, which helped Cloquet open up a 29-17 lead into the break. As the team started to find its rhythm offensively in the second half, the tide began to turn, according to coach Chris Whiting.

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Alexa Snesrud of Cloquet shoots a layup during a Wood City Classic tournament game against Mesabi East on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School. Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

“In the second half we started making a few of our short shots. In the first half we missed them,” Whiting said. “Then we picked it up on defense, so it kept them from getting into their offense and I think we controlled (Maddie Young) a little bit in the second half. I don’t know if (it was) controlled, but (we) made her work harder for her shots.”

Young scored 14 of her team-high 18 points in the first half, including all 10 of the team’s points out of the gate in a 10-6 score. In spite of Young’s offensive heroics, the Giants managed to keep the deficit within four points for much of the half, but could not keep up down the stretch, as the Lumberjacks used an 11-1 run to make it a 29-17 ballgame at the break.

The Giants slowly whittled away at the deficit as play resumed, with Maggie Lamppa and Forsline draining shots to make it a seven-point game at 37-30.

The Lumberjacks searched for an answer to help curb the momentum-shift, but an inability to generate a response on offense led to Mesabi East taking its first lead of the game at 41-40 with five minutes left to play.

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Cloquet's Justice Paro is guarded by Marta Forsline of Mesabi East during a Wood City Classic tournament game on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School. Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

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Justice Paro and Kiley Issendorf gave the Lumberjacks the lead back briefly down the stretch, only to have it erased by leading-scorers Forsline and Hill in the waning minutes of the game.

The 'Jacks weren't able to get key stops despite knowing how the Giants' offense was going to attack, according to Young.

“We didn’t adjust to what they were doing offensively. Even though we knew they were doing a lot of ball screens and rolling, we just couldn’t for some reason figure out how to completely stop that, and that’s where they scored a ton of points was just pick and rolls,” Young said.

Cloquet (6-3) will play in the third-place game against Virginia today at 4:30 p.m. Mesabi East moves on to the championship game, where they’ll face Crosby-Ironton at 1 p.m.

Mesabi East 17-34—51

Cloquet 29-20—49

Cloquet — Maddie Young 18, Justice Paro 14, Alexa Snesrud 8, Kiley Issendorf 3, Caley Kruse 2, Ava Carlson 2, Addison Thompson 2. Totals 19 9-13 49.

3-point goals — Snesrud, Paro.

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Mesabi East — Kora Forsline 18, Maija Hill 13, Marta Forsline 8, Stevie Hakala 3, Alexa Fossell 2, Maggie Lamppa 2, Emily Beyer 2, Elli Theel 2, Gianna Lay 1. Totals 21 8-15 51.

3-point goals — Hakala.

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