Prep girls basketball: Rails edge 'Jacks in 54-50 nail-biter
Senior Hope Carlson led all scorers with 22 points for the Rails.
PROCTOR — With only a minute left to play in a one-point game, Proctor sophomore Lily Smith made a cut to the basket and delivered the game-winning layup for the Rails in a down-to-the-wire 54-50 win over Cloquet, Tuesday, at Proctor High School.
The win avenges a one-point loss earlier this month to the Lumberjacks in which Proctor led by as many as seven points down the stretch, but was unable to come out on top.
Proctor head coach Matt Solberg said the previous matchup served as a learning tool for the young club.
“We’ve kind of been the cardiac kids this year. We’ve had losses by one, two, three, four, like real close and just can’t get over the hump. We’re relatively young, but that’s not an excuse,” Solberg said. “It takes some games to learn how to finish games.”
Senior Hope Carlson, who finished with a game-high 22 points, said the team’s composure in the back-and-forth second half proved to be the difference.
“We just didn’t execute, had some turnovers. One play can make the difference in the game and this time around we kept our composure and knew that we had to stay focused throughout the game, and then we made a big play when it mattered and we made the free throws at the end,” she said.
In the absence of leading scorer Alexa Snesrud due to injury, the Lumberjacks leaned on double-digit scorers Quinn Danielson, Ava Carlson and Kiley Issendorf for much of the first half as the trio kept the club stride for stride with the Rails into halftime in a 22-20 score.
Cloquet coach Heather Young was especially pleased with the team's play on the other side of the court, which was a point of emphasis entering the game.
"We knew we had to do our best in regards to the defensive effort, switch some things up here and there and I think it got Proctor scrambling for awhile," Young said. "Obviously our job was to try and keep Hope Carlson out of the picture and I felt like our girls did that."
The two teams exchanged leads 11 times in the final 18 minutes of play before the Lumberjacks pulled away with a basket by Issendorf to make it a four-point game with just over two minutes remaining.
Smith, who finished the contest with seven points, scored five of them in the final two minutes beginning with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one, and later scoring the game-clinching layup for the Rails with just over a minute remaining.
The Lumberjacks had an opportunity to retake the lead in the one-point game on their next possession, but turnovers ultimately spoiled their comeback bid in a 54-50 final.
“We had it and just kind of couldn't figure out how to finish it,” Young said. “At the end of the day it’s probably on me, because I probably should have called a timeout at the end there with 28 seconds left,” Young said. “I didn’t and we threw the ball away and they scored to go up by one so that’s on me as a coach.”
Both teams will be back in action Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7:15 p.m. as the Lumberjacks will hit the road to take on Grand Rapids in their next matchup, while the Rails will host Duluth East.
Cloquet (13-6) — Kiley Issendorf 11, Quinn Danielson 12, Macie Majerle 4, Lauren Hughes 6, Carly Johnson 6, Ava Carlson 11. Totals 21 4-5 50.
3-point goals — Danielson 3, Issendorf.
Proctor (14-6) — Chloe Carlson 8, Paige Evans 9, Presley Tapani 8, Hope Carlson 22, Lily Smith 7. Totals 21 8-11 54.
3-point goals — H. Carlson 2, Tapani, Smith.