The Pirates all had different words for it.
Head coach Darin Zimmerman called it "strange." Emma Borowicz picked "interesting." Hayden Winjum went with "weird."
The only word that really mattered, though, was "win," as Crookston girls' basketball (12-2) won its fourth straight game by dispatching Cass Lake-Bena (9-5) on Saturday afternoon at Crookston High School, 76-32.
But take your pick of "strange," "interesting," or "weird" — any of them would have worked to describe a game that wasn't quite as straightforward as the margin would suggest.
"A lot of different things happened that don't normally happen," Zimmerman said. "I thought we played really good defense, offensively we certainly got it going during different possessions, so I was pleased with the way our kids responded to some mistakes we don't normally make."
The first of those mistakes came with Crookston up 17-4 midway through the first half. The Pirates were confused after a timeout, and Madison Hoiland (So., F) ran out on the floor not realizing there were already five Pirates on the court, leading to a technical foul.
But there were plenty other, more subtle displays of lackluster communication in the first half for Crookston.
"We maybe tried to force things too early and too often in possession," Zimmerman said.
Added Winjum: "We didn't quite come out with the intensity that we wanted to."
Meanwhile, the Pirates had to adjust at first to the Panthers' physical full-court press and up-tempo style, but as Crookston has become known for its own pressure defense and practices against it every day, it didn't take the Pirates too long to crack Cass Lake-Bena.
"They left some gaps, especially on the weakside, and we were able to find the open teammate," Zimmerman said. "That helped early on in the game because it kind of softened up the press a little bit to find those open spots on the floor."
Crookston led 35-17 at the half, having scored 15 points from the free-throw line.
The Panthers started the second half on an 8-5 run, making the Pirates sweat just the tiniest amount, but Crookston put the game away in no time. Borowicz began to catch fire, starting with a 3-pointer to put the Pirates up 43-25, and Winjum forced several steals and turned them into easy layups.
The last several minutes of the game were played on running time, as Crookston closed the game out on a 23-0 run.
"We started communicating, which was really the factor that turned the game around for us," Winjum said. "We were on our feet and defense started to get going."
Saturday's 76 points were the most the Pirates have scored all season. Their previous high came on Dec. 28 in a 74-69 win over Coon Rapids.
Borowicz scored 18 points, while Winjum added 15. Gretchen Theis (Sr., G) scored 11 points, Kasey Cwikla (Sr., F) scored nine and Halle Winjum (8, G) scored eight.
Gabby Fineday led Cass Lake-Bena with nine points.
Ultimately, Zimmerman was pleased with the way his team finished out its 12th win of the season.
"That just shows a little bit of experience, knowing how to finish, and close out a game," Zimmerman said. "Our team needed to be a little bit stronger and a little bit more aggressive during that time. Just the will to want to do well, also. You could just see it in their eyes the way they were playing. They wanted to end the game well."
But with Crookston 12-2, its standards for what constitutes a great performance are higher than ever — and while Saturday's game may have been strange, interesting or weird, it wasn't quite perfect.
"Definitely not exactly how we wanted to play at stretches," Borowicz said. "But we came around towards the end and started playing our game."
UP NEXT: The Pirates are on the road on Tuesday, Jan. 14 to take on Badger/Greenbush-Middle River. The Gators are 11-3 and 8-1 in Section 8A.
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