Cards ‘hold their ground’
Cromwell wins two Polar League games and secure first place
by John Grones | February 10, 2004
Esko may have the biggest girl to have ever played in the Polar League. If not, she is definitely the stongest. Esko’s Katie Juntunen dominated the undersized Cromwell Cardinals inside on Tues., Feb. 3, but Cromwell ‘held their ground’ to upset the team that is ranked third best for small schools in the area.
Is it an upset? Cromwell head coach Dave Foster wouldn’t commit one way or another. The fact is, his team is pretty good, too. “I’m sure in the community’s mind, it was an upset,” he said. “We haven’t been ranked all year and they have.”
As for the new rankings, Dave is indifferent. “It’s nice having that motivation to knock off ranked teams.”
The win for the Cardinals was very important in terms of winning the Polar League conference title. It was also a great test for facing a team with more size. Cromwell did struggle to defend the bigger Esko players. In fact, Esko only scored two baskets outside the painted area.
Esko’s, Katie Juntunen was responsible for most of Esko’s points. She scored 25. The game was close all the way and Juntunen really heated things up in the third quarter. After Cromwell secured a seven-point lead midway through the quarter, Juntenen scored twice under the basket on two straight possessions. Then, on the very next trip down the court, she stepped out beyond the arc and hit a three. The seven point run by the Juntanen tied the game at 40.
Juntunen picked up where she left in the fourth quarter by scoring the first two baskets. Head coach Dave Foster immediately called a timeout to make an adjustment, “We finally doubled her,” said Dave. “It took us four trips and two timeouts to figure it out.”
When they did figure it out, it worked. They held Juntanen to two points in the final seven minutes and outscored the Eskomos 11-6.
Jeana Anderson started the scoring run. She completed an offensive rebound put-back and then hit a jumper in the lane after a nice shot fake. The two-point lead didn’t last, because Amy Maasch drove to the basket for a score and Juntunen picked up an easy basket.
Kylee Smith came up big on the next possession. She stepped back on a pick and roll and hit a three-pointer for a one point lead with 1:42 remaining in the game. After Esko missed on their next two possessions, they fouled Alexa Grones with 34 seconds remaining. The Cards were in the bonus and Alexa hit both free throws for a three-point lead.
Esko went back to what had been working for them all game – a drive to the basket. Unfortunately for them, they ran into Kylee Smith for the third time. Kylee held her ground and drew a third offensive foul and the Cardinals took possession of the ball.
Alexa was fouled again and again it was a bonus. She hit both of them for a five-point lead. Esko came right down and drove to the basket again. This time, nobody was there and they converted a two.
Another foul, two missed free throws and Esko’s final shot attempt falling short gave Cromwell a 55-52 victory and a share of first place.
Cromwell 55, Moose Lake 49
A share of first place would last all but one day, as the Cardinals won another big Polar League Conference game. They hosted the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels on Thur., Feb. 5. It was another tight contest and another test defending a taller line-up.
This time the Cardinals struggled early with Holly Radzak, a six-foot sophomore. Radzak had 13 points and nine of them were in the first half. Not only was she scoring, but she was causing foul trouble for the Cards.
The Cards bent, but didn’t break, as Kylee Smith and Jeana Anderson took over the first quarter. The two combined to score all but two of the team’s 17 points. Janel Jordan hit a shot to end the quarter and secure a one-point lead.
Quarter number two was a disaster for Cromwell and one they would most likely want to forget. They struggled offensively and defensively, scoring just seven points and if it weren’t for a 3-point basket by Kelcie Smith to end the quarter it might have been worse.
Cromwell took the momentum of the final shot and picked up the intensity of defense in the second half. The defense not only generated stops, but produced some easy baskets on the other end. The Cards fired up from the outside. Kelcie Smith came up with a big offensive quarter, scoring 11 points.
In the fourth quarter, the teams traded baskets until just under two minutes to play. Up by one point, 50-49, Kylee and Kelcie executed the perfect pick and roll play for a three-point lead. On the other end of the court, Moose Lake’s Soli Mallory was fouled. She missed her free throws, but so did Cromwell.
The Rebels got another chance but missed the shot. Kylee was fouled and she sank both free throws to complete the scoring 54-49.
Cromwell was once again strong at the free throw line. They hit 14-17 to go with their 16-18 versus Esko. Combined the team shot 30-35 this week for 86 percent. Obviously, a key to their two wins.
Another key was the crowd. “The cheering was awesome from the beginning,” said Kelcie Smith. “Especially Andy Wachter, Taylor Grones, Cody Scavezze and Taylor Bloemendaal.”
Individually, Kylee Smith had 38 points in two games, Kelcie Smith had 32, Jeana Anderson had 21, Alexa Grones had 13 and Janel Jordan had five.
The Cards resume action next week with two more conference games. They will travel to Wrenshall on Mon., Feb. 9 and return home on Thur., Feb. 12 to play Floodwood.
This article first appeared in the February 10, 2004 issue of the Voyageur Press.