Crookston scored 31 points on free throws in a 67-52 win.
Crookston never trailed against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, but the matchup definitely featured a grind from tip-off to buzzer. The Rebels fell behind by multiple scores in a number of instances in the second half, fought their way back to a small deficit, but the Pirates used 31 points from free throws to fend off any comeback attempt in a 67-52 victory.
For the first time since the season-opener, the Pirates saw four of their own reach the double-digit mark in scoring. Rachel Hefta (Sr. F) scored a season-high 17 points as did Gretchen Theis (Jr. G) with 15. Hayden Winjum (Fr. G) and Kylie Solheim (Sr. G) each finished with 10, Emma Borowicz (So. G) scored eight, Kasey Cwikla (Jr. G) and Dani Boyle (Jr. G) tallied three apiece and Emma Boll (So. F) hit a free throw.
“Rachel had a great game tonight,” Head Coach Darin Zimmerman said. “We had an opportunity to get her the ball and she played really well. There were a couple of times where [DGF] beat our defense, and Rachel was there to bail us out. I thought Gretchen Theis did a nice job against the pressure, found open kids and played good defense. Hayden had a really good game and she left it all out on the floor.”
Katlyn Brenna (Sr. G) carried the DGF Rebels (5-4) with 25 points followed by Maria Watt (So. F) with 12 and Evelyn Moe (Fr. G) at five.
The Pirates attempted 45 free throws, the most since their 27 against Thief River Falls. As a team, Crookston owns a free throw percentage of 62.
“We do that every single day,” Hefta said referring to practicing shots from the charity stripe. “It closes out our practices and before practice, we do it. It just makes it much easier for us to know how to react in game situations.”
The Pirates lived by attacking the rim in the first half. Despite not hitting any three-pointers, Crookston jumped out to a handsome lead with the help of stellar defense.
Hefta scored four and Borowicz tallied three on the way to a 9-2 run to start the game. Theis came in off the bench, scored four points and Cwikla hit a long two for a 16-5 lead with 9:22 remaining in the half.
The Pirates found success with steals and protecting the ball which contributed to the lopsided score. But once Crookston went ahead by 11, the roles reversed and the Pirates began turning the ball over allowing the Rebels to creep back into contention.
“[DGF] got loose for some open shots,” Zimmerman said. “I thought we could’ve contested a little more there. With good shooting teams, you really got to get hands in their face. We didn’t rebound as well so they got some second chances and some kickouts.”
The Rebels took control on offense with six points from Brenna and cut their deficit to five with an 18-13 score. Hefta stopped the run and banked a shot off the glass for a 20-13 advantage.
Mariah Iwen (So. F) made it a 22-15 game and Moe and Kayla Molstre (So. G) hit back-to-back three-pointers to counter Hefta’s four points in the last five minutes of the half, but the Pirates led 27-21 at halftime.
DGF outscored the Pirates 9-0 in treys for the first half, but Crookston held the advantage in free throw shooting going 11-of-16 from the line while the Rebels went 0-for-1.
The Rebels drew first blood in the second half with baskets from Moe and Watt to come within two points down 27-25. Hefta notched a basket, but Brenna scored 69 seconds later to make it a two-point game again.
On Crookston’s ensuing possession, Boyle drilled a three, Theis matched with a trey of her own and the Pirates increased their lead to 35-27 with 14:25 to play. Theis continued on her season-best night with a hook shot to maintain an eight-point lead at 37-29.
“That was a big spark for us,” Zimmerman said. “DGF came out and made some plays to start the second half. We didn’t have a comfortable lead, but it was a lead that we were happy with. They cut into it, then our girls came out and buried those threes. That got the confidence level back up.”
DGF saw a chance to strike when Borowicz, Crookston’s leading scorer on the season, went to the bench with four fouls while the clock showed 12:23 left. With 9:45 to play, Brenna knocked down a three-pointer as part of a 6-1 run to trail by three, but the Pirates went ahead 44-35 after Solheim scored six points in a row. Two of them came after Rebels' Head Coach Tom Critchley, Jr. was called for a technical foul.
No matter how many times Crookston extended their lead, the Rebels found a way to make it interesting. Despite committing their ninth team foul with 7:17 to play, DGF managed to work their way to a 46-41 game with a trey from Brenna and capitalized on Hefta’s third personal foul.
Time began to wind down leading the Rebels to bring full-court press, but Hefta said the team remained calm and went about their game plan.
“We just played our defense and made sure they didn’t speed us up on offense,” Hefta said. “On their presses, we made sure we had good passes. We had three options at all times so we weren’t going to pass the ball away.”
The Pirates began their final run when Winjum stole the ball and dribbled all the way to the rim to put Crookston up 50-41 with 5:11 left in the game. Watt provided a glimpse of hope for the Rebels with a trey, but fouled out with 3:35 to go and the Pirates leading 51-46.
Borowicz re-entered the game, sunk three free throws and Winjum scored the next four points for a 58-46 lead. Winjum’s field goal with 2:47 left ended up being the final Pirate points from the field as they converted on eight free throws to conclude the game with a 67-52 win.
“That game felt like it had a bunch of games within the game,” Zimmerman said. “It just had so many streaks that went on. I think the big thing for us was we had composure throughout. We made a few mistakes here and there, but we didn’t let those mistakes pile up and we came back and made plays.”
The win against DGF marks Crookston’s fourth over an opponent that defeated them the previous year. Sacred Heart, Thief River Falls and Barnesville round out the list.
“I think we have better communication this year and we have more people who want to succeed and just run the floor as hard as we possibly can,” Hefta said. We want to get as far as we possibly can this year and I think we’re going to get pretty far.”
The Pirates' next contests come in the Concordia College Tournament on Thursday and Friday, December 27-28. Crookston plays Rothsay on Thursday at 12:45 p.m. and either DGF or Menahga on Friday at 11 a.m. or 4:15 p.m.
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