January 13, 2011 at 9:33 a.m.

CL smokes Cloquet after five losses

CL smokes Cloquet after five losses
CL smokes Cloquet after five losses

Totino-Grace 84, Chisago Lakes 61

When a basketball team gets hot, there just isn't much the other team can do.

Playing perfect defense doesn't always work when the other team makes shots from close, from far, with a hand in their face, open, or any shot they take for that matter.

That happened the Wildcats home tilt with the Totino-Grace Eagles last week. The Wildcats built an early 10-point lead as they started quickly. Despite the early cushion, Chisago Lakes' couldn't maintain the lead as Totino-Grace kept chipping away, and eventually CL went into halftime up only four points. "Totino is a successful program who is usually battling for a state tournament berth in our section finals," Head Coach Craig Walker said. "They know how to win ball games."

Still, the 'Cats had a slight advantage at the break, but that would quickly vanish. Totino-Grace came out blazing hot in the start of the second half, and Chisago Lakes couldn't match them on the offensive end. "It seemed that every player they ran onto the court would score a basket when left open," Walker said. "We got a little tired trying to keep the defensive pressure on which led to some easy looks for them."

With the lead gone, the Wildcats turned to a press defense to try and slow down the scorching Eagles, but that didn't work as they either passed over the top of the press or dribbled right through it and made their shots. All of a sudden, a game that was still within reach for CL got out of hand quickly.

"The first half was probably the best half we've played all season. We started with defensive energy and intensity, which allowed us to transition and get some easy looks offensively," Walker said of the 'Cats successful opening stanza. But, in the second half, they kept the pressure on from start to finish and you have to be ready. I was pleased with our first half performance, but obviously not so much with the second half."

With leading scorers Whitney Tinjum and Bryanna Fernstrom back after both missed time due to injuries, the Wildcats will look to work on consistency and getting the pair's conditioning level back to where it was prior to the extended layoff because of holidays and injuries.

Tinjum had 30 points in her first game back from her concussion, and Fernstrom added 11. Hannah Trandahl had a nice game for the Wildcats, getting seven points and leading the team in assists and steals.

Chisago Lakes 56, Cloquet 19

After their tough go against Totino-Grace, which was their fifth loss in a row, the Wildcats were finally able to blow off some steam in an easy victory over the Cloquet Lumberjacks.

Chisago Lakes brought a nasty defensive attitude to the came, as they completely shut down the Cloquet offense in the first half, allowing only eight points. "The press that failed us early in the week allowed us to dominate in the first half," Walker said. "We were exposed over the break and against Totino to the fact that our press wasn't working well.

In seasons past, the 'Cats were always a team that could force turnovers and turn those mistakes into quick points, but that just wasn't happening. Walker said he took most of Wednesday's practice time to break down the press and really see what parts hadn't been working and show the girls.

The revamped defense preyed upon sloppy passes and untimely turnovers from Cloquet, and the press really worked wonders.

By the start of the second half, the 'Cats were in complete control and didn't have much to worry about, but Walker still wanted to work on some things as the sting of the five game losing streak was still evident.

"We spoke at half time about keeping up our defensive intensity, no matter who was playing or who we were playing and I'm proud of the way our players responded defensively," he said after the blowout. "We also used the first five or six minutes of the second half to work on an offense that we're experimenting with that we think we'll use in the future."


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