Crookston bested Park Rapids 63-48 in the Section 8AA Quarterfinals.
MOORHEAD - Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Such was the case in a Section 8AA Quarterfinals matchup between the Crookston Pirates and the Park Rapids Panthers.
Crookston, a five seed in the North Sub-section and No. 10 overall, sought out to reach the Section Semifinals for the first time since 2015. That year, Crookston defeated Park Rapids in the quarterfinals.
Four years ago, the Pirates owned the one seed, but they needed no such advantage to bounce the Panthers, the current one seed in the South Sub-section and No. 2 overall, by a final of 63-48.
When these teams last met during the regular season, Park Rapids (14-11, 9-2 Section 8AA) edged Crookston 64-56 during the Pirates' seven game losing streak. Since the skid ended, the Pirates (17-10, 10-6 Section 8AA) have put together six victories in a row including two in the section tourney. It is their longest winning streak of the season.
For the second straight game, senior presence assisted the Pirates to a win. Kylie Solheim (Sr. G) put up 15 points followed by fellow classmate, Rachel Hefta (Sr. F), who scored 13. In the first two playoff games, combined, Solheim and Hefta average 28.5 points per contest.
Emma Borowicz (So. G) added 13, Hayden Winjum (Fr. G) totaled nine, Kasey Cwikla (Jr. G) provided seven off the bench and Dani Boyle (Jr. G) tallied six.
On the Panthers' side, Kaisa Coborn (Sr. G) and Rilee Michaelson (Jr. C) each scored 13. Kendra Coborn (Sr. G) notched nine, Julia Johnson (Sr. F) recorded five, Paige Johnson (Jr. C) and Whitney Steffel (Sr. G) produced three apiece and Natalie Kinkel (Sr. G) rounded out the list at two.
A concern coming into this matchup came in the form of the venue at Concordia College in Moorhead. Last time the Pirates played in that gym on December 29, 2018, Crookston experienced one of their worst offensive games of the season. The Pirates shot 18 percent from the field that day and went 0-for-20 behind the arc in a 46-35 loss to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, the team Crookston beat in the first round of the section tournament.
The Pirates jumped out to a 23-16 lead, but the Panthers closed out the half on a 12-4 run and led 28-27 at the break.
Following a subpar conclusion to half number one, Crookston regrouped and regained their lead at 40-37 with nine minutes to play. By this time, Park Rapids found themselves in deeper and deeper foul trouble as the Pirates sat in the bonus.
Just like they did in the first round game, the Pirates stormed ahead on a massive run. Against DGF, it was a 17-0 surge. Here, Crookston outscored Park Rapids 18-8 in a seven minute span for a 58-45 advantage.
The Pirates prevented any last-chance efforts by the Panthers and celebrated their first quarterfinals win in four years.
The Crookston team of 2015 eventually lost to Roseau in the semifinals to end their season. The 2019 group will get a chance to reach the last stage of the section tournament for the first time since 2013 when they face East Grand Forks. The Green Wave enter the game seeded second in the North, third in the section and winners of the two meetings with the Pirates this season.
A Crookston team has not beaten an East Side squad since 2015. The Green Wave have won eight in a row against the Pirates.
Tip-off is set for Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Lysaker Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota Crookston campus.
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