Denfeld News

January 13, 2012
Duluth News Tribune

Hunters stretch win streak
By Rick Weegman

When Duluth Denfeld snapped Superior’s 47-game Lake Superior Conference winning streak earlier this season, Andrew Laughlin came through with 27 points.

When the Hunters ended nearly five years of frustration and defeated Duluth East, Jodeston Robinson sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 3 seconds left in overtime.

And when Robinson left Tuesday’s game against Cambridge-Isanti with a sprained ankle, Derek Meger scored a career-high 38 points.

Several players have taken on the scoring load for Denfeld, which beat Superior 69-55 on Thursday night to end the Spartans’ 27-game conference home win streak and stretch their own win streak to six. The Hunters (10-2) were led by Laughlin, who had several dunks among his 30 points.

“A key part of being a good team is being multidimensional,” said Laughlin, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who upped his 18.5 point-per-game average. “It’s nice knowing that if you’re not having the best game, you can give the ball to another player and they can help the team out. Last year, our team chemistry was one of the things that hurt us down the stretch. But now, after playing together for a year and a half, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so we try to get each other the ball in a position where we can do something with it.”

The Hunters won without Robinson, the team’s leading scorer with a 20.4 per-game average, who will miss three to four weeks after stepping on an opponent’s foot while going for a rebound.

“It’s a bummer watching the team play, but it’s also motivation at the same time because I know I have to work twice as hard when I come back,” said Robinson, a senior guard listed at 6-3.

During the interim, the Hunters will rely on Laughlin, Meger, a 6-5 senior forward, and 6-5 senior center Sam Humes for the bulk of their scoring.

“It’s tough having a scorer like (Robinson) on the bench for three or four weeks, but at the same time we still need to win these games,” Laughlin said. “If we can battle and win the tough games without a great player like Jo, when he comes back we’ll be even better.”

Robinson made the winning basket in what might have been the Hunters’ biggest win in years, a 100-99 victory over East last week. After Robinson missed his first 3-point try, Laughlin grabbed the rebound and worked the ball back to Robinson for a successful 3-pointer with 3 seconds to play.

“I grew up with the East kids and never had beaten them,” Robinson said. “I was nervous about making that shot.”

Beyond just bragging rights, the win gave the Hunters a much-needed boost of confidence.

“We haven’t had a big confidence win in a long time,” said assistant Andy Roberts, who filled in Thursday for ill head coach Jeff Nace. “Beating East was a big thing for all these kids and will not only help them in games right now, but when it comes down to tournament time they will be able to say, ‘Hey, we can beat these tough teams.’”

Third-ranked Grand Rapids stands in Denfeld’s way in Section 7AAA. The Thunderhawks won 72-58 in December, but the Hunters outscored them after falling behind 18-2. The teams meet again Feb. 10 at Denfeld.

“We know we can play with any team on our schedule, and winning these kinds of games gives us more confidence,” Meger said.

Robinson feels it might be the Hunters’ year.

“We can go all the way (to the state tournament) if we keep our composure,” he said. “The talent’s always been there, but we have to keep it together.”

That didn’t happen in 2011 when then-Duluth Central fell to Forest Lake in the first round of the Section 7AAAA playoffs.

“We were really disappointed about how we did (in the playoffs) last year,” Laughlin said. “Coming into this season we were motivated to build off last year, and we don’t want that disappointment to happen again.”

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