Sophomores Sydney Boike and Brooke Heggie each scored 16 to lead the top-seeded Pirates to a 67-49 victory over No. 4 Warroad Saturday afternoon at Bemidji State.
Crookston, now 20-5, led 36-24 at halftime, but the Warroad defense tightened up in the second half and held the Pirates to just 31 points. The Warriors managed just 25 points in the second half, though, and the Pirates advanced.
"The first half was up and down, back and forth," Pirate head coach Lon Boike said. "We hit ten of 11 free throws and had that good 14-4 run to start the game but we let them back in. Warroad played a good 1-2-2 defense.
"In the second half we came out flat," Boike continued. "Our hope as coaches was to get five or six quick points, but it was the opposite and they got the early buckets and made it a close game again."
They will face the No. 2 seed, Pequot Lakes, Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Bemidji State for the Section 8AA North championship. The winner will face the winner of Section 8AA South between Wadena-Deer Creek, who shocked top-seeded Hawley on Saturday, and Pelican Rapids, who upset the No. 2 seed, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Saturday. The section title game is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Bemidji State.
Coach Boike hadn't seen Pequot Lakes, the defending section champions, play since last season when the Patriots ended Crookston's season in the quarterfinals at Bemidji State. They watched Pequot Lakes defeat Crosby-Ironton following their win, though.
"We haven't seen them since last year," Boike said. "I am anxious to see this game. Pequot Lakes is very similar to last year. They like to get up and down the court."
Adding to Boike and Heggie's points were senior Taylor Demarais and sophomore Danica Brekken each scoring nine points. Senior Kylie Simmons added eight points, while sophomore Kenzie Klatt scored five.
Krista Friesner led the Warriors with a game-high 18 points, while Molly McDonald added 12 points.
"Warroad played a very good 1-2-2 defense," explained coach Boike. "They are a good, physical team and they sealed things up inside. They didn't let us get too many looks."
Warroad scored the first two buckets of the game, but Crookston responded with a 14-0 run over three minutes. The run featured a bucket and a three-point play from Heggie, and was capped by a bucket and three from Klatt.
The Warriors answered back with an 8-1 run to cut the deficit to 15-14 with nine minutes left in the first half.
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The Pirates finished the half with a pair of 7-0 runs to take a 36-24 lead into halftime.
Warroad scored the first five points of the second half and gained momentum. They trailed by as little as seven with 3:25 remaining before Crookston called a timeout.
The Pirates answered with an 8-0 run, including a key three from Simmons, which gave Crookston the cushion it needed to hang on for the victory.
"When Kylie hit that three and Brooke added a bucket and a couple free throws and the game went from a seven-point lead to 13 in a hurry, I thought that was the dagger, so to speak," Boike said
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