Crookston moves to 12-12 with two games left before the section tournament.
ERSKINE - Out of Crookston’s 66 points, 33 came from beyond the arc and 17 more came from the charity stripe. The Pirates needed nearly all of them to outlast the Win-E-Mac Patriots and escape with a 66-60 win.
The Pirates received nearly two-thirds of their points from senior guard Todd Boerger and junior forward Nick Garmen who scored 21 and 20 respectively.
Senior center Carter Winand reached double digit points with 10, junior forward Jaden Lubarski put up five and junior forward Blake Fee hit a three as well as sophomore guard Walker Winjum.
When the game started, it became apparent Crookston would be strong with their three-point shooting. The Pirates scored 18 of their first 20 points with treys to take a 20-12 lead with Nick Garmen earning Crookston’s first 11 points.
“I didn’t really expect it,” Nick Garmen said. “We just run our plays and if I’m open, I’ll shoot it. It just happened that way tonight.”
Crookston increased their lead to 22-12 with a second-chance shot from sophomore center Caden Osborn. Win-E-Mac then began to attack the rim effectively and cut the Pirate lead to 23-18. Garmen put an end to the Patriots’ streak with a three. From then on, Head Coach Greg Garmen thought his team played better defensively.
“We wanted to keep them out of the paint,” Garmen said. “In the first half, I think 18 out of their 23 were in the paint. We wanted to make them work for everything. They weren’t shooting very well from outside, but they usually shoot better. We guarded them tightly and hopefully that’s a credit to our kids.”
Lubarski scored his first four points of the game in back-to-back possessions which maintained Crookston’s lead at 30-22. Boerger ended the half with the Pirates’ eighth three of the night to lead 33-24 at halftime.
The second half started with Lubarski drawing a foul and converting on only the team’s second free throw in four attempts. Shortly after, Winjum extended the lead to 37-26 drilling his only three of the game.
The Patriots, once again, crept back into the game scoring the next seven points to only trail by four with 13:23 to play. Crookston answered with a layup by Winand and the team’s 10th trey of the night courtesy of Boerger.
Greg Garmen admitted having Boerger back after missing seven games served as a quality addition to the Pirate roster.
“He played under control for the most part and played within himself,” Garmen said. “We have more depth with him in the lineup and another ball-handler and shooter.”
The nine point lead did not hold for long as Win-E-Mac used their size to attack the rim and get within four. The Pirates refused to allow the Patriots to come within a one possession difference. Boerger sunk his fifth three of the game and Winand capitalized on a rebound scoring the second-chance points to gain a 47-40 lead as the clock showed 8:15 remaining.
Crookston held a 49-44 lead with six minutes to go when they began earning their trips to the line. Boerger hit the first two at the 5:50 mark and two more a couple of minutes later after Win-E-Mac made it a 51-49 game in favor of the Pirates.
Winand and Garmen combined for the next eight free throws and kept the game a two possession difference leading 61-55 in the final minute. Boerger then scored the Pirates’ first field goal in six and a half minutes with a breakaway layup.
Another free throw by Winand with 19 seconds left added to the lead now 64-57. The Patriots shot a three with 3.7 seconds left to make it 64-60, but free throws by Garmen issued the dagger and the Pirates won 66-60.
In the final six minutes, Crookston shot 15 for 18 from the line to fend off a Win-E-Mac comeback.
“Free throw shooting was huge down the stretch,” Greg Garmen said. “Carter, Nick, Todd and Jaden were all there and they hit enough to keep them at bay and keep it more than a one possession game.”
The victory improves Crookston’s record to 12-12, the eighth time they have owned a record of .500 this season.
Two games remain in the regular season and Nick Garmen believes the Pirates sit in a position to make a strong run after the road win and with Boerger back in the lineup.
“It helps a lot especially from losing one starter and going 2-5 without him,” Garmen said. “It should help us a lot for the next two games because those will be big.”
The first of the final duo of games will be on Thursday, February 22 against Roseau at 7:30 p.m. for Crookston’s Senior Night.