The Pirates' four-game winning streak to start the year came to an end.
East Grand Forks scored the most of any team against Crookston this season, the Pirates put up a season-low in points and the Green Wave took game one of the season series 55-33.
Turnovers dug an early hole and the Pirates (4-1) could not recover against a potent Green Wave offense. In addition to extra possessions for East Side, Crookston, who shot 66 percent from the free throw line coming into the game, made only six of 12 in a game with an eight-point difference at 6:25 to play.
“We shot the ball better in the second half, but didn’t really shoot the ball well in the first half,” Head Coach Darin Zimmerman said. “Really, the story of our offense was turnovers. I don’t have the official stat number, but I’m sure it was high 20s or low 30s. We gave them a lot of extra opportunities and that was not good on our part.”
For the first time this season, the Pirates did not have a single player reach double digits in points. Emma Borowicz (So. G) led the team with eight, Hayden Winjum (Fr. G) totaled seven, Dani Boyle (Jr. G) recorded six, Gretchen Theis (Jr. G) notched five, Kasey Cwikla (Jr. G) finished with three and Rachel Hefta (Sr. F) and Emma Boll (So. F) each scored two.
The Green Wave brought with them a quick offense the Pirates had not seen yet this season. East Grand Forks spread the ball around, ran methodical plays and knocked down their open shots. Crookston struggled with turnovers early and could not get their good looks to fall.
“I give East Grand Forks some credit,” Zimmerman said. “They did some nice things tonight. They got our girls to play a little faster than they probably wanted to play. We just have to be more fundamentally sound. The disappointing thing is our girls are. They’re good basketball players, they’re good athletes and we haven’t turned the ball over like that.”
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead after a Borowicz free throw, but the Green Wave quickly responded with a trey for the lead. East Side continued their surge with a 10-3 run to open the game until Winjum cut the deficit to five with a layup.
East Grand Forks maintained a multiple score lead throughout the first half and going 3-for-8 from the charity stripe on Crookston’s part made it hard to chip away at the lead.
Trailing 17-8, Boyle provided a spark hitting the team’s only three-pointer of the half to trail 17-11 with 8:20 to play in the first half. A free throw by Cwikla made the score 17-12, but the Green Wave extended their lead to 23-15 with an 8-3 run.
“We were trying to beat them with one pass all the time,” Zimmerman said. “And that one pass, [East Grand Forks] was reading and they were stealing a pass that wasn’t there. We just have to make the simple one.”
Cwikla drew a foul with a basket and a chance for a three-point play, but missed the free throw and Crookston still trailed 23-17 with 3:21 to go.
EGF finished the first half on a 6-2 run and went into the locker room with a 29-19 lead.
After allowing the most first-half points all season, the Pirates defense rallied in the second half holding the Green Wave to two points in the first seven minutes. The only problem, Crookston scored only four of their own in that span.
“Our defense did a really good job tonight,” Zimmerman said. “They really kept us in the game because, despite not scoring, our defense was really solid. This was the first time we showed a lot of man [defense] and I thought we did a really good job taking away gaps.”
Borowicz opened the half driving to the rim for a layup and made two free throws to make the score 29-23 with 16 minutes to play.
The Green Wave responded with a 7-0 run and seized another double-digit lead at 36-23. Winjum and Boyle each hit a three-pointer to bring Crookston within eight down 39-31, but the Pirates could not get closer as East Side pulled away with a 16-2 run to close out the game and win 55-33. Crookston’s final basket came on a layup by Theis as time expired to end a drought of six-plus scoreless minutes.
The Pirates came into the contest hoping to avenge their four losses to EGF last year, left disappointed, but Zimmerman believes the team can learn from the experience.
“I don’t think they’re going to dwell on it too long,” Zimmerman said. “The hard part is those girls are competitors. They don’t want to lose any games. They especially didn’t want to lose to East Grand Forks. They don’t have anything against East Grand Forks, but they beat us four times last year and they knocked us out of the playoffs. Nobody’s hoping for a loss, but it can be a very good thing and that’s what we think is going to happen.”
The Pirates will attempt to start a new winning streak when the trek to Thief River Falls for a game against the Prowlers in the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday, December 15. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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