Denfeld News

March 5, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

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 game.

“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.

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