Nick Garmen scored 23 points, but Crookston fell short to Pelican Rapids 66-60.

    Crookston and Pelican Rapids engaged in a back-and-forth battle until the Vikings took a lead with 2:38 to play and never looked back. The Pirates could not inch their way back and lost 66-60, their third straight.

    The Pirates, at one point, led by eight with a 29-21 lead near the end of the first half, but a 7-2 run by the Knights in the final 2:26 put Pelican Rapids in a position to make their second half run.

    “We had a few lapses where we didn’t do want we wanted to do defensively,” Head Coach Greg Garmen said. “It cost us a couple big shots by them. We also took some shots when it was a bad time to take shots so people weren’t in position to rebound and that hurt us as well.”

    Crookston received decent contribution from their starting five. Five minutes into the game, all Pirate starters scored.

    Junior forward Nick Garmen proved most efficient on offense with 23 points followed by senior center Carter Winand who scored 13. Junior forward Blake Fee notched nine, junior forward Jaden Lubarski tallied seven and sophomore center Caden Osborn put up six in his third game as a starter.

    “He’s been solid and that’s been a help to us getting some offense generated inside,” Garmen said on Osborn. “He’s got good hands and long arms and uses them. He just needs to keep doing his stuff.”

    Sophomore guard Walker Winjum finished the Pirates’ scoring adding two points of his own as time expired.

    For Greg Garmen, scoring from his starting five and one off the bench will not be enough to help the team moving forward.

    “We need other kids to up their game a little bit and be stronger with the ball,” Garmen said. “When it’s their turn, they got to do it and hopefully they can get it going.”

    With 13:02 to play in the first half, Crookston owned a 12-9 lead after threes from Garmen and Fee and baskets by Lubarski, Osborn and Winand.

    Garmen hit his second three of the game to create a 6-0 Pirate run. A 7-2 counterattack brought Pelican Rapids closer trailing 17-16.

    After the Vikings knotted up the score at 21 apiece, Crookston hit another hot streak scoring eight in a row. Osborn contributed to half of the run with a pair of nice baskets under the rim.

    Once the Pirates led 29-21, Pelican Rapids began to force fouls and capitalized on second chance points. Four points off of free throws and a trey made the score 29-28 in favor of Crookston. Lubarski added a pair of points from the charity stripe to increase the lead to 31-28 at halftime.

    “It was sort of a hack-fest early,” Garmen said. “I think we put them to the line a bunch and I think we only got there twice. They were in the bonus early and we needed to get to the line. We weren’t getting inside enough.”

    The first five and a half minutes of the second half proved to be difficult for the Pirates. Despite tied at 37-37, Crookston did not make a field goal until Winand did with 12:26 left in the second half just after the Vikings took their first lead of the game.

    Pelican Rapids regained the lead at 39-37, but a three by Fee gave Crookston a 40-39 advantage. The Vikings took the lead two other times in about a 2:30 span, but the Pirates managed to equalize the score both times for a 45-45 game with seven minutes remaining.

    The Pirates possessed a chance to take a three point lead when Fee took a foul on a three point shot. But he would go on to make just one and Crookston led 46-45. Back-to-back threes by the Vikings gave them their largest lead of the night at 51-46.

    Garmen brought Crookston closer with a basket and a pair of free throws by Fee to counter a Vikings bucket made the score 53=50 in favor of Pelican Rapids as the clock showed 4:41 to go.

    Nearly two minutes later, Garmen tied the game again with a three capping off a stretch of 10 points in six minutes by the junior.

    However, another three by the Vikings put them ahead 56-53 with 2:39 left. Once Winand fouled out going for a rebound, Pelican Rapids  hit the free throws they needed to close out a 66-60 win.

    After the third straight loss, Garmen saw specifics he liked, but hopes to see improvement down the final stretch of the regular season.

    “We have to defend better,” Garmen said. “We finally stopped the ball from getting to the rim and took three charges. That was good because I don’t think we’ve done that in about 15 games it seems like.”

    In the three game skid, two have been decided by six or less points. Crookston’s record drops to 9-10 as they fall to under .500 for the first time since January 9.

    Crookston stays at home for four more games. The first of which will take place on Thursday, February 8 against Thief River Falls at 6 p.m. after Crookston Basketball History Night.