Crookston struggled shooting early on, but recovered for their second-largest margin of victory this season.
The true mark of a complete team: when one facet of their game lacks, the other shines. This was the case for the Crookston Pirates in their 57-19 win over the Red Lake Falls Eagles. Crookston could not hit from the outside, but made necessary adjustments to score timely points and their defense prevented any Eagle threat.
In the third straight win to open the season, Emma Borowicz (So. G) once again led the team in points notching 18. Hayden Winjum (Fr. G) put up eight, Rachel Hefta (Sr. F) contributed six, Dani Boyle (Jr. G) tallied five, Kylie Solheim (Sr. G), Kasey Cwikla (Jr. G), Jenna Coauette (Fr. G) and Halle Winjum (7th Grade G) each added four, Gretchen Theis (Jr. G) hit a three-pointer and Emma Boll (So. F) grabbed one from the charity stripe.
From tip-off to the halftime buzzer, the only thing going right for the Pirates lied with their defense. Crookston (3-0) could not drain a basket and shots in the post often rolled in and out of the net. Luckily for the Pirates, their defense allowed the bare minimum of baskets.
“The way we were set up, if [the Eagles] were going to help in a lot and try to take away the rim, girls should look to shoot from the outside and we didn’t shoot very well,” Head Coach Darin Zimmerman said. “We got good opportunities. I thought our offense was very good minus maybe playing a little fast and too many turnovers. We had a lot of opportunities, we’ve just got to convert on them.”
Hefta played a large role in Crookston’s early lead with a pair of blocks, a steal and a basket in the first two minutes to help the Pirates to a 4-0 lead.
After watching his team score only 10 points in the first 4:23, Zimmerman applauded the defensive efforts which started with Hefta.
“It’s really important playing with that intensity all the time,” Zimmerman said. “Especially on the defensive end. Ideally, you’re going to be great on offense all the time, but sometimes, shots are just not going to fall. Give Red Lake Falls some credit, but our defense intensity was able to maintain the high level of play for us.”
With the Crookston offense struggling and in search for a spark, Theis came off the bench and hit a trey for the third straight game. The basket put the Pirates ahead 8-2 which they later extended on a Hefta bank for a 10-2 advantage with 13:37 to play in the first half.
Hefta’s jumper with 12:11 left gave Crookston their fifth point outside the paint. Solheim later added on to points under the rim with a layup and the Pirates led 14-2.
Red Lake Falls put together a 4-0 run to trail 14-6 with 10:28 remaining, but the Pirates responded with a layup parade. It started with Hayden Winjum, then Boyle and ended with Cwikla which resulted in a 20-8 lead for Crookston.
“It was just the girls working really hard,” Zimmerman said on maintaining a lead while the offense searched for answers. “I thought we did a really good job of covering gaps really well. We had good defensive spacing. We closed out really well so we weren’t out of position very often and when we play like that, we can be very good on the defensive end.”
With 2:34 left in half number one, Boyle sunk a shot from behind the arc for the Pirates’ second three-pointer of the game and put Crookston up 25-12. Borowicz scored her first field goal of the game with 28 seconds to play for a 27-14 score and the Pirates went into the locker room with a healthy advantage.
“We realized we were kind of rushing everything on offense and we realized we needed to take a break and just slow down and run our offense and get good looks,” Solheim said. “Finally, our shots started falling in.”
After being held to three points in the first half, Borowicz kicked off the second half scoring with a layup and later knocked down a three-pointer, the team’s third, for a 34-14 lead.
Between the Borowicz baskets, Hayden Winjum added two layups and a jumper as part of a 16-2 Pirates run to open the half.
With 10 minutes to play in the game and Crookston ahead 43-16, Borowicz took control and scored the next six points, all on layups, in a span of 80 seconds. Suddenly, the sophomore who tallied only three points in the first half led the team with 18.
“I think [Emma] was maybe trying to force a little bit,” Zimmerman said. “We all were trying to force a little bit. She had opportunities, didn’t convert on them and I think her defense led to some points on offense. She got some deflections, some breakouts, she got some transition points and then she just got in rhythm from there.”
At this point, Zimmerman had permanently gone to his bench allowing varsity time for some underclassmen.
Coauette made excellent use of her minutes with back-to-back baskets and Halle Winjum made her presence known scoring the final four points of the game to create the 57-19 final.
After allowing only 14 points in the first half, Crookston one-upped themselves and the Eagles only mustered five points in the entire second half.
“We were jumping when the ball was in the air and we were just getting really tight on them and making them uncomfortable,” Solheim said. “I think that kind of played a part into why they only scored five points.”
With the 38-point victory, Crookston has now won all of their games by double digit points and averages 62 points a game compared to their opponents who score 33 on average.
The Pirates will look to continue their unblemished record when they host Warroad on Friday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
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