Crookston High School Gymnasium was buzzing Saturday with a postseason-like atmosphere as the Pirates hosted the No. 3 ranked Hawley Nuggets. The Pirates put on a shooting show, too, as they led by as much as 13 with 11:35 left in the second half. Hawley stormed back, though, with a 15-2 run and went on to win 98-83.
Pirate senior Alex Boone, who hit five three pointers in the first half and six for the game, finished with 26 points, including 19 in the first half to help the Pirates build a 47-43 lead at halftime. Sophomore Ryan Porter had 18 points and had four threes, while sophomore Aaron Hollcraft had three threes and added 14 points and junior Michael Hefta, who also had a three, had 13 points. Senior Travis Vatthauer had two threes and finished with eight points, while senior Alex Boike had four points.
"It was was fun playing them," Boone told the Times. "They came into the game as the favorites so we didn't feel any pressure and were able to play relaxed and have fun out there. I think we were all in the zone. Being able to play relaxed and confident makes a big difference and we showed that.
"Our plan was to attack the middle and get it to the corners for three pointers," Boone continued. "They're a big team with long arms so our best bet was shooting from the outside which we've been doing well lately."
Devon Pekas, who is garnering Division I interest, posted 36 points for Hawley, while Ben Ellefson added 19 points and Phillip Teeples had 13 points.
"The boys were fired up to play," said Pirate head coach Greg Garmen. "Traditionally we have played Hawley well. Pekas' 36 points on the night hurt us. We came out and shot and played with confidence. We know what we can do now. We showed it here."
Crookston hit ten three pointers in the first half, leading by as much as 11 points with about nine minutes left.
The hot shooting continued into the second half for the Pirates as Porter and Hollcraft opened the half up with back-to-back threes.
The largest lead for Crookston of 13 points happened with a Hollcraft three followed by back-to-back buckets by Boone and Hefta to make it 67-54.
Hawley answered with its 15-2 run to tie the game at 69-69 with 8:13 remaining.
With the Nuggets holding a 79-78 lead with about five minutes left, there was a technical foul called, firing up the Pirates and their fans. Boone hit both free throws and after a Hawley three-point play, Porter answered with a three to make it 83-82 with 4:49 left.
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That would be all the scoring for the Pirates, however, as the Nuggets finished with a 16-0 run to close out the Pirates.
Crookston is now 9-9 on the season and will go on the road for some tough road tests against Pequot Lakes on Friday and Crosby-Ironton on Saturday.
"This is a huge confidence builder for us," said Boone. "We proved we can play with the best teams in the state, so I think that will give us some confidence and momentum come playoff time."