Crookston sweeps the season series against Barnesville.

CROOKSTON - Barnesville never led in this affair, and eight different Pirates scored as Crookston downed the Trojans 43-30.

    This win gives Crookston (13-10, 7-6 Section 8AA) their second against Barnesville (8-15, 5-9 Section 8AA) this year. The last came in the seventh game of the season when the Pirates won 35-27 on the road.

    “Barnesville does a really good job of containing dribble-drive,” Pirates Head Coach Darin Zimmerman said. “They work hard to shut teams down. It was a little slow start for us, and I thought we kind of picked it up in the middle of the first half. Overall, I’m happy to see some progress. I think we turned the ball over less this game compared to the first one. We’re getting stronger, we’re getting the ball inside more.”

    The victory granted the Pirates their 13th of the year which matches their season total from 2017-2018.

    Crookston refused let the Trojans get settled, made them uncomfortable on offense and forced a great deal of turnovers. To compliment their challenging defense, the Pirates spread the ball around and saw eight of their own notch points.

    Rachel Hefta (Sr. F), who averages 10 points per game over the last six, headlined Crookston’s offense with 12. Hayden Winjum (Fr. G) totaled eight, Dani Boyle (Jr. G) tallied seven, Kylie Solheim (Sr. G) scored five, Emma Borowicz (So. G) added four, Gretchen Theis (Jr. G) made a trey and Kasey Cwikla (Jr. G) and Halle Winjum (7th Grade G) each contributed two.

    “We’re not really a selfish team,” Boyle said. “We want everyone to score and everyone to get chances to score.”

    The Trojans used 11 points from Claire Meyer (Sr. G), eight from Lauren Halverson (Fr. C), three by Lexi Bolgrean (Fr. G), Kim Maesse (So. G) and Elora Passa (Sr. F) and two from Samantha Passa (So. G).

    Barnesville managed to hang around benefiting from Crookston’s free throw struggles. Before four straight by Boyle and Hayden Winjum in the closing minutes, the Pirates went 8-for-15 from the line and missed on scoring opportunities under the rim. The Pirates, however, minimized the Trojans’ chances at free throws as Barnesville only attempted seven.

    Through the first five minutes, the Pirates amassed a 9-3 lead with points from Borowicz, Hefta and Hayden Winjum. Passa converted on a three-point play, and the Trojans later tied the game on a three from Meyer.

    Theis entered off the bench, sunk a three, and after a bucket from Hefta, Boyle hit a trey to award Crookston an 18-12 lead with 1:48 to go in the frame. The Pirates’ 8-0 run lasted for over three minutes, during which Crookston created a number of steals.

    The two teams traded two points in the final 1:30, and the Pirates went into halftime ahead 20-14.

    Hefta put Crookston up by nine with points on consecutive possessions, and Solheim preserved the same advantage following free throws from Halverson.

    The Pirates’ defensive prowess continued when Boyle stole the ball and finished the basket on the other end for a 28-16 lead with 14:44 to play.

    “All year long, our defense has been pretty good,” Zimmerman said. “The last couple games, we’ve seen sort of a renewed intensity. It’s not to say we weren’t good before, but it’s the end of February, and you’ve got to pick it up a little bit.”

    The 12 points separating Crookston and Barnesville quickly shrunk to five. Halverson cut the deficit to 10, and Maesse and Meyer drilled back-to-back threes for an 8-1 run forcing Zimmerman to call a timeout.

    Whatever Zimmerman told the team, it worked to perfection. When play resumed, Solheim made a trey, and Hefta scored in the paint. It took Barnesville over three minutes to score following the timeout. When Meyer finally did with 6:13 left, the Pirates provided themselves with a nine-point cushion ahead 35-26.

    After Hefta’s aforementioned field goal, the Pirates suffered a 5:31 scoring drought. During this stretch, Solheim fouled out, but the Crookston defense kept the Trojans at bay and still led 35-28.

    With two minutes remaining in the game, Hayden Winjum forced a turnover and transformed it into points. Boyle added a pair of free throws, Cwikla scored for the first time in the game and Hayden Winjum capped off an 8-0 run from the charity stripe.

    “I think we just finished more than anything else,” Zimmerman said. “We had some good opportunities we just didn’t convert on [earlier in the game], but again, you’ve got to give credit to our girls for working themselves into positions to be successful. We got a couple good run-outs in those closing minutes that allowed us to get some transition opportunities, and that was the boost that we needed.”

    Barnesville scored once more in the final minute, but Crookston had already wrapped up a 43-30 victory.

    Since losing seven in a row and eight of nine, the Pirates have won two straight section games. They will get a chance for a third when they host Thief River Falls on Friday, February 15 at 4:30 p.m.

    “When we’ve been winning, it’s a full 36 minutes of playing,” Boyle said. “When we would lose, we would have the streaks of not really playing our best, but we’d still come back and make it a close game. We just can’t dwell on the losses. We have to come back and work even harder the next day in practice and try out best.”

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