The signs were yellow with black numbering, about seven inches wide and 12 inches tall. There looked to be close to 100 and the fans couldn’t wait to use them.
Emma Borowicz had no idea how many had been made. But the junior was aware how close she was to 1,000 points for her career — just five away coming into Tuesday night’s game.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds into the game, Borowicz stepped to the free-throw line, took a few dribbles and swished the shot everyone in the gym was waiting for.
First she heard the roar of the crowd. Then she saw her best friend, Hayden Winjum, come out to hug her. Then she saw her entire team follow.
They mobbed Borowicz on the sideline, and when she got the chance to look behind the bench, she saw the many small pieces of paper made just for her — reading simply, “1,000.”
“I forgot who pointed it out to me, but they were like, ‘Oh, look up there!’ ” Borowicz said. “That was really cool to see all the signs, the tears came to my eyes.”
Face flushed and grinning, she walked back out, took a few dribbles and swished her second free throw.
“She's just an amazing basketball player all-around and an amazing friend too,” Winjum said. “When she made that basket, (I was) just full of joy.”
If sentimentality isn’t as important to you, Borowicz’s free throws were just the fifth and sixth of the 13 she’d end up with in the Crookston girls’ basketball team’s season opener, a 62-34 win over Sacred Heart. And by the time she knocked them down, the Pirates were up, 25-2, and long since off and running.
The Eagles scored the game’s first points, but that’s as close as it would get. Crookston promptly scored the game’s next 29, using its swarming full-court defense and high tempo to force easy turnovers and turn them into easy layups.
“The momentum (was) coming from the defensive end,” Borowicz said. “We had lots of rebounds, lots of steals, we were just going.”
If Sacred Heart managed break the Pirates’ press, it was met by an equally stingy halfcourt defense. If it managed to get back to stop their transition attack, it was met by a crisp, balanced offense that swung the ball around the court and put the Eagles on their heels.
“One of the strengths of this team is that we have a lot of athletes and a lot of basketball players who can score and a lot of unselfish players,” said Crookston head coach Darin Zimmerman. “When we get that balance, good things are gonna happen for our offense.”
Going into halftime up 37-11, the Pirates had one message: keep it going.
“We don't have a scoreboard going in practice, so it doesn't matter if we're up 20, down 20, one-point game," Zimmerman said. "We wanna do the same things all the time.”
For the most part, Crookston wasn’t outright dominant in the second half. Its initial 18 minutes left a hard act to follow. But the Pirates never took their foot all the way off the gas pedal, and emptied their bench still up by 30.
“It was really nice to see us playing at that level first game of the year,” Zimmerman said. “Sometimes it takes a little while.”
Winjum led the team with 17 points, while Gretchen Theis (Sr., G) added nine. Halle Winjum (8, G) and Danielle Boyle (Sr., G) both scored eight to lead an all-around offensive performance.
But the night belonged to Borowicz.
Twenty minutes after the game ended and the Pirates were greeted outside their locker room by a cheering student section, she and her family were still out on the court, taking pictures and soaking in the moment.
When Borowicz left the gym for good, the fans still gathered outside gave the 10th-leading scorer in Crookston High School history one last ovation.
“Emma is one of the hardest workers I've ever met,” Zimmerman said. “She loves the game of basketball, and she's literally done everything I've ever asked her to do. She's been playing a little while now, but it couldn't happen to a kid that deserves it more."
UP NEXT: Crookston takes on Win-E-Mac on Monday, Dec. 2 in Erskine in its next game.
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