Prep report: Hibbing holds off Cloquet for 7AAA title berth
Barnum topped Cromwell-Wright for a place in the 5A championship.
HIBBING — Top seed Hibbing secured its spot in the Section 7AAA championship game for a second consecutive season after defeating No. 4 seed Cloquet 56-53 in the semifinals, Tuesday, March 15, at Lincoln Elementary School.
The Bluejackets built a double digit lead of 33-23 at halftime, but saw the ‘Jacks battle back in the second half thanks in large part to scoring leader Alec Turnbull, who finished with 21 points. Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald finished with a game-high 24 points for the Bluejackets.
The contest came down to one final possession for Cloquet with a chance to tie the contest at 56. The play failed to materialize for the ‘Jacks, allowing the Bluejackets to run out the clock for the victory.
In spite of the end result, Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia said the team’s effort on the defensive end of the floor was its best all season.
“I thought we played really good. I thought we played a great second half,” Battaglia said. “I thought (it was) probably the best defense we’ve ever played all year.”
Hibbing coach Joel McDonald said the difference in the game came down to the team’s execution down the stretch in the second half.
“We had a relatively comfortable 10-point lead at the half, but then Cloquet switched up defenses to start the second half and I think we had possibly four layups that we just fed them, and all of the sudden we had a battle on our hands almost instantly,” McDonald said. “The key for us was we had just enough resilience and made just enough big plays in the last minute or so.”
With the win, the Bluejackets will take on No. 2 seed Hermantown in the Section 7AAA championship game, Friday, March 18 at East High School.
Cloquet -- Conner Barney 8, Kollin Bonneville 3, Alec Turnbull 21, Marco Mayorga 8, Caleb Hansen 13. Totals 22 1-1 53.
3-point goals -- Turnbull 4, Bonneville 1, Hansen 3.
Hibbing -- Jacob Jensrud 12, Carson Brown 4, Zach Rusich 6, Dane Mammenga 10, Ayden McDonald 24. Totals 22 6-11 56.
3-point goals -- Jensrud 2, McDonald 2, Mammenga 2
Hermantown 59, North Branch 53
Hermantown, playing on the road, overcame a 33-30 halftime deficit and held off the second-seeded Vikings for a berth in Friday's section final vs. Hibbing to be played at Duluth East.
The Hawks nursed a single-digit lead through to the finish for their 20th win of the season (against eight losses).
Tuesday's victory avenged an 83-77 home defeat to the Vikings in December. Hibbing won both Lake Superior Conference meetings against the Hawks, the most recent a 76-61 decision in Hermantown on Feb. 17.
Blake Schmitz scored 20 for the Hawks. Michael Lau added 17 and Keaton Christianson 10. Hermantown didn't allow a Viking player to score in double figures.
Andover 73, Duluth East 52
A 15-point halftime deficit was too much for the Greyhounds to overcome as they suffered a season-ending loss to the top-seeded Huskies.
Andover, which led 36-21 at halftime, got 22 points from Sam Musungu, which led all scorers. Three others scored in double figures.
For East, Isaac Nyakundi was the only scorer to reach double figures, posting 18. Will Van Scoy and Jobe Juenemann had nine points apiece.
East finishes with a record of 15-13. Andover will meet Coon Rapids on Thursday for the section title.
Barnum 57, Cromwell-Wright 39
HINCKLEY — No. 1E Barnum clamped down defensively to beat No. 2E Cromwell-Wright in the sub-section championship, Tuesday, March 15, at Hinckley High School.
The win pushes the Bombers (21-8) into the Section 5A championship game against No. 1W Nevis, where they will look to earn their third state tournament berth in program history, and first since the 2007 season. The location was still to be determined.
Barnum got off to a fast start in the contest after building a 10-2 lead, but the Cardinals managed to cut the deficit to four midway through the half. The Bombers went on to hold a 12-point advantage at halftime, and maintained a double-digit lead to the final buzzer.
The loss drops the Cardinals to a final record of 14-13. Coach Bill Pocernich said the team knew it was in for a tough challenge against a Barnum club that had beaten them twice by double digits during the regular season.
“Coming in we knew Barnum is good … We knew that we could compete with them, but we also knew we were going to have to play really well, and we did some things well tonight, but we didn’t play well enough to beat a team of Barnum’s caliber,” Pocernich said. “Barnum hit some big shots at timely moments and they got up right away.”
The 57-39 win for the Bombers marks the seventh game this season that the club has held its opponent to under 40 points. Coach Richard Newman said their effort on the defensive end of the floor loomed large in the outcome of the game.
“The key was definitely our defense,” Newman said. “Our kids played tremendous defense and did a great job.”
The section final matchup with Nevis will be the first time the two teams have met this season. Newman said it will take another gritty effort on the defensive side of the ball to come out on top.
“We’re going to have it come out playing a tremendous defensive game.” Newman said. “They’re a very talented ballclub. They’re quick and athletic and they can shoot the three, so we have to get up on them. Then we have to convert on the offensive side.”