Crookston drops to 10-11 with the loss and five games to play in the regular season.
At one point, Crookston trailed 25-11 in the first half to Bemidji then 3:16 later, led 28-25 behind strong performances from senior and freshman guards Bailey Folkers and Emma Borowicz. But the Pirates’ could not contain the offense of the Lumberjacks and fell short 76-67.
“I was really pleased with our offensive output,” Head Coach Darin Zimmerman said. “I thought we did some nice things especially considering our start. Defensively, that’s two games in a row where we haven’t been as good as we normally are and we’ve got to clean that up. Tonight we were rotating well, but we didn’t close out enough.”
Folkers and Borowicz led the offense with 22 and 20 points respectively. Folkers’ performance served as a season-high in points.
Junior guard Kylie Solheim also put up season-best numbers with 15 points. Junior forward Hailey Seaver added four, senior guard Jaeden Lizakowski scored three, sophomore guard Kasey Cwikla put up two and eighth grade guard Hayden Winjum hit a free throw.
Zimmerman commended the games from Folkers, Borowicz and Solheim, but wished for more points from the rest of the starting lineup.
“To have three kids in double figures and two of them in 20 is good,” Zimmerman said. “We had our opportunities to finish some easy ones and some contested shots. If we finish those, it’s a different ballgame.”
The Pirates struggled to score early not hitting their first field goal until a Borowicz layup nearly six minutes into the game. Solheim converted on a trey to cut the deficit to 12-9, but the Lumberjacks followed with a 13-2 run to extend their lead to 25-11 with 7:46 to play in the first half.
Lizakowski started the run with a three and Borowicz finished with another layup. Folkers drew Crookston closer at 25-18 with a pair of free throws, something the Pirates relied on shooting 28 of 34 from the line.
The Pirates continued to attack the rim with points in the paint. Solheim hit a basket and Folkers followed with two more free throws.
After Solheim sunk two shots from the charity stripe, Folkers drove to the rim and scored on a layup to give Crookston a 26-25 lead. Another layup by Borowicz capped off the 17-0 run and the Pirates led 28-25.
“It was all intensity,” Zimmerman said. “We weren’t playing very well and all of a sudden, everything we were doing was at a very high level. Defense was very high-level and we got some steals that we converted into easy points.”
Bemidji finally ended the Crookston surge with a free throw, but Cwikla scored on the ensuing possession and gave the Pirates their largest lead at 30-26.
The Lumberjacks ended the first half with a 9-4 run and led 35-34 at the break.
Bemidji continued their attack at the beginning of the second half and led 52-42 with 11:17 to play.
Crookston worked their way back into the game with a 15-6 run with the help of seven free throws and threes by Folkers and Solheim.
The Lumberjacks staved off the attack putting distance between themselves and the Pirates with five straight points. Folkers scored Crookston’s fifth three-pointer of the game to draw closer at 63-60, but the Lumberjacks did not allow Crookston to come back and finished with the 76-67 win.
Zimmerman hopes the grit from the loss transitions into more points and wins in the future.
“They will never give up,” Zimmerman said. “Whether we’re up or down, I see a lot of consistency I our effort. If we can just play a little more fundamentals and a little more clean, that effort is going to pay off into more points.”
Crookston (10-11) next plays in Hawley on Monday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m.