March 5, 2011
Famed Duluth rivalry is finished
By Rick Weegman
C.J. Ham flashed a wry smile when asked how surreal
it was for a student who started at Duluth Denfeld to play Central’s
final boys basketball home game at East High School.
“Today didn’t go as planned from the
start,” the Central senior said about the events that unfolded
Friday afternoon. “As soon as ninth hour got out, we had a
bomb threat and were told that the game was going to be moved. It
was hard to focus on the game with all that was going on.”
East prevailed 81-60 in the final regular-season
meeting between the longtime city rivals.
While the result may not have been a surprise
— East won 90-67 in the season’s first meeting —
the way it came about definitely tossed a wrench in the finale.
Central players were starting a shootaround when word broke of a
suspicious device in the school parking lot.
“It happened when the bell was ringing,”
Central coach Jeff Nace said. “They said we couldn’t
leave the building by the front and we had to go out the back. The
kids were escorted down to the (Secondary Technical Center) and
the school was evacuated.”
Players were allowed back in the rear door to
retrieve their equipment, and then talk centered around moving the
“At 5 (minutes) to 4, (the police) told
me, ‘You’re not having a game here tonight,’ ”
Central activities director Tom Pearson said. “So at 5 to
4, it was scramble mode. I called (East AD) Shawn Roed and he said
their gym was available. Then it was a mad scramble to get the workers
organized, the referees, all of our concession supplies. Our hands
were tied, there really wasn’t much else we could do.”
The ADs discussed postponing the game until Saturday
or Tuesday, but neither date was acceptable. A good-sized crowd
still was on hand to watch one final act of the drama.
“The whole situation will definitely add
to the rivalry’s (lore); I hope it doesn’t taint it
at all,” East coach Chuck Tolo said. “To me, it was
a great last game. The stands were filled, and you could see that
there’s still a lot of love for basketball in this town. Just
to be a part of this last game was special.”
The Trojans (17-9) hung around in the first half,
trailing just 29-25 at intermission. But poor free-throw shooting
(16-for-29), trouble keeping East star Johnny Woodard off the boards
and an inability to slow down lightning-quick guard Taylor Stafford
cost Central in the second half.
“We did exactly the opposite that we talked
about at halftime, that we needed to come out the first three minutes
and establish ourselves,” Nace said. “Instead, East
established themselves on us.”
The Greyhounds (19-6) scored the first eight points
of the half and never led by fewer than seven points afterward.
“Coach told us to keep doing the same thing
we were doing, but we came out in the second half and started slow
and got away from what we were doing well in the first half,”
said Ham, who had 10 points to join Andrew Laughlin (14) and Jodeston
Robinson (11) in double figures.
Woodard led with 21 points and Stafford added
17 to virtually ensure the Greyhounds the No. 1 seed in next week’s
Section 7AAAA playoffs. There’s a chance the teams could meet
one last time in the postseason.
“I’ve been lucky to have been part
of that rivalry for 18 years, coaching in tons of games. That’s
special,” Tolo said. “That rivalry affected a lot of
people over the years — good, bad and ugly. It’s too
bad it’s not going to be there anymore.”
Duluth East .................. 29-52—81
Duluth Central ............ 25-35—60
Duluth East — Taylor Stafford 17, Danny Moe 8, Jon Cigalio
2, Johnny Woodard 21, Matt Rogotzke 9, Ian Nelson 11, Shaq Coleman
11, Dusty Royseth 2. Totals 32 13-17 81.
3-point goals — Moe 2, Stafford, S. Coleman.
Duluth Central — Andrew Laughlin 14, Jodeston Robinson 11,
Jeff Ohaju 1, Sam Humes 7, Derek Meger 7, Chad Bolen 8, C.J. Ham
10, Cory Bolen 2. Totals 21 16-29 60.
3-point goals — Laughlin, Robinson.