Boys basketball: Turnbull, Lumberjacks outlast Bombers
BARNUM — Midway through the opening half of last week's boys basketball game against Barnum, Cloquet coach Steve Battaglia asked Alec Turnbull to enter the contest for his Lumberjacks.
Excited, the Cloquet freshman took off his purple- and white-striped warm-up pants and, accidentally, his white shorts came down with them, too.
"Typical freshman thing to do," said Turnbull, getting a loud laugh from his classmates sitting in the bleachers behind the bench.
Yet, it was Turnbull who hit the game's biggest shot just in front of that bench when the right-hander heaved in a deep 3-pointer from the right wing and ensued to create and steal to help the Lumberjacks secure a 48-43 win over the Bombers on Friday, Nov. 30, in Barnum.
In a season-opener for both clubs that showed we were still in late November, Cloquet and Barnum bounced leads back and forth throughout, with the Lumberjacks leading 26-23 at halftime and the Bombers owning several scoreboard advantages in the second.
On a night where Cloquet was a measly 2-for-16 from beyond the arc, Turnbull turned in a long-distance swish to give the visitors a 40-38 edge with 4:30 remaining — a lead the Lumberjacks would never relinquish.
"I'm just trying to make things happen," said Turnbull, who, in instant later, poked away a steal at mid-court and created a breakaway score before an excited Cloquet crowd at a well-filled Barnum gym. "I saw an opportunity, I was aggressive and it turned out well."
"He's savvy, smart, knows what he's doing and he can shoot it. He can absolutely play at this level," Battaglia said of Turnbull. "He's a key part of this."
While Turnbull played eighth-grade and freshman ball last season, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound curly-haired guard is adjusting to varsity this winter. Turnbull also plays some junior varsity, the teenager hitting several 3-pointers last week before the varsity game began.
"He was already heating up, so I had faith in him," senior teammate Alex Leuzzo said of Turnbull's go-ahead shot. "Once he hit that, it really keyed our run to get going and helped us finish the game out. It was really a clutch play."
"They made big plays," Barnum coach Rich Newman said. "That was a big shot."
Plenty of basketball shots have been had in the Turnbull household, as while Alec plays, so, too, do his twin brothers, Reese and Will, on the freshman team. The three are triplets, while older brother Bryce, who just graduated last year, was a mainstay for the Lumberjacks the last several seasons.
Speaking of this season, Cloquet (2-1) looks much different than years past — graduating a number of longtime starters — but after making an upset-filled run to the Section 7AAA final last winter, they boys in purple are never ones to sleep on.
Leading the Lumberjacks last week was do-it-all junior Markus Pokornowski with 12 points, while Leuzzo added 10, respectively.
For Barnum (0-2), 6-foot-4 senior Sam Goodwin, who will play football at Minnesota State Moorhead next fall, had a game-high 14 points, as classmate Tyler Nynas chipped in 10 to aid the squad, which had several second-half leads and scrapped hard against the bigger-school Lumberjacks.
"They didn't come in a knock us over," Newman said. "I like these guys. They're a good bunch of kids. I'm satisfied."
Battaglia, the school's principal, now in his 14th year coaching at Cloquet, said that's always the case with teams led by by the longtime Newman, a social studies teacher in his 21st season on the sidelines.
"He's one of the best, bar none," Battaglia said. "His kids play hard every year, all the time."
Cloquet — Adam Schneider 6, Markus Pokornowski 12, Nick Flynn 7, Riley Leslie 4, Alex Leuzzo 10, Alec Turnbull 3, Logan Gallup 6. Totals 18 10-15 48.
3-point goals — Turnbull, Pokornowski.
Barnum — Jake Nynas 2, Tyler Nynas 10, Sam Goodwin 14, Jordan Haley 3, Jerad Haley 5, Blaze Hurst 7, Ryan Weller 2. Totals 16 11-15 43.
3-point goals — None.