Crookston kept it interesting all the way to the final buzzer, but came up just short in the first round of the section tournament.
Crookston held a lead against East Grand Forks for nearly 11 straight minutes behind solid shooting in the first round of the Section 8AA Tournament. But strong defense from the Green Wave forced turnovers, missed shots and allowed them to grab the 53-48 win over the Pirates, their fourth win this season against Crookston.
Freshman guard Emma Borowicz led the Pirates in scoring with 14. Borowicz finished the season with 304 points averaging 11.2 per game.
Senior guard Bailey Folkers put up 13 in her final game as a Pirate. In her farewell season, Folkers averaged 10.1 points per game.
Eighth grade guard Hayden Winjum scored timely points and equaled 10 for the game. Senior guard Jaeden Lizakowski tallied five in her final game and junior guard Kylie Solheim, junior forward Rachel Hefta and sophomore guard Kasey Cwikla all notched two.
The Pirates’ offense began the contest hitting one field goal in the first nine minutes. Free throws by Solheim and Folkers were half the points and Crookston trailed 14-6.
Borowicz hit back-to-back treys to make the score 14-12 which sparked a 15-2 run by the Pirates. Folkers and Cwikla scored the next six points in the paint and Winjum capped the run off with her second three of the game and gave the Pirates a 21-16 lead with 4:27 to play in the first half.
“I think we came out and we were really tight,” Head Coach Darin Zimmerman said. “We didn’t attack and we weren’t very aggressive. Some of our shots, we weren’t really sure of ourselves. We had too many turnovers. After that, we settled down and maybe didn’t think as much. We made shots, the confidence went up and the defense got better.”
The Green Wave converted on a three to creep closer at 21-19 and Crookston responded with a layup by Folkers and a three-pointer by Borowicz, the team’s fifth of the game. East Grand Forks scored once more in the half and had the final possession of the half, but did not get the shot off in time sending the teams into the locker rooms in a 26-21 game favoring Crookston.
Lizakowski opened up the second half with a trey putting the Pirates ahead 29-21, their largest lead of the game. Crookston maintained an advantage trading scores with the Green Wave. Folkers hit the Pirates’ seventh three of the game and Winjum banked in a shot for a 38-32 lead with 12:07 to play.
At this point, the defense of the Green Wave took over. East Side forced turnovers which led to a 7-0 run and a 39-38 lead. Winjum quickly gave Crookston the lead with a pair of free throws and on the ensuing possession, East Grand Forks took the lead again.
“That’s what they do,” Zimmerman said. “They average like 16 or 18 steals a game. They gamble a little bit to try and get a steal. Sometimes when you do that, you’ll give up some easy ones, but they stuck with it. Some of our turnovers in the first half were just weak passes, in the air too long and not very fundamental. Overall, I think we did good to eliminate them, but just a couple too many.”
A three by Borowicz with 6:27 remaining, the first Crookston field goal in nearly five and a half minutes, put the Pirates ahead 43-41. The Green Wave then recorded an old-fashioned three point play to go up 44-43 with 5:39 to play.
Seven more points by East Side ended a 10-0 run putting the Pirates in a 51-43 as the clock showed 1:28 remaining in the game.
Crookston missed both free throws with 1:04 left and Hefta made it a two possession game at 24 seconds with a bank shot. The Pirates got the ball back and were able to convert a three point play after a foul on a Folkers layup.
Now down 51-48 with 14.5 to play, the Pirates forced a turnover, but could not get a favorable roll on the layup attempt. East Side got the rebound and hit the free throws to win 53-48.
Despite only scoring 10 points in the final 12 minutes, the Crookston defense kept the game close, an aspect Zimmerman commended.
“One thing that we’ve been pretty consistent at is defense,” Zimmerman said. “We had one of our better defensive efforts tonight. We didn’t get quite as many stops as we needed to, but we got some and gave our offense a chance to make plays. I’m happy and proud of the way we played all night long. We had one bad stretch in the second half, but at the end, we dug our heels in and gave us a chance to make it interesting.”
The loss ends the Pirates’ season with a record of 13-14. Crookston played in 14 games decided by 10 points or less. In those games, the Pirates split going 7-7.
Crookston will have a strong core returning for next season and Zimmerman recognized the two seniors, Folkers and Lizakowski, for their contribution.
“They’re leadership has been great for us,” Zimmerman said. “They’ve come with a great attitude and they’re hard workers. They kept pushing us to be a better team. They definitely put us in position this year to be a competitive team and in future years.”