Boys’ basketball
Record: 5-8 (3-6 Section 8AA)

Crookston is still as hard to pin down as it was two weeks ago. The difference: it’s become apparent that that’s the point.

Last Thursday, the Pirates absolutely took it to Red Lake County, a quality team with a 10-3 record and a narrow loss to East Grand Forks to its credit. Crookston scored the game’s first 13 points and led 20-6 right out of the gate — and gave it up almost as quickly. The Rebels took the lead in the first half’s final minutes and ran away with the victory.

This in-game inconsistency isn’t random. The Pirates have weapons — Caden Osborn (Sr., C) has been as dominant as ever inside, Jack Garmen (Jr., G) can be deadly from 3-point range, Walker Winjum (Sr., G) and Easton Tangquist (Jr., G) are both savvy playmakers and Carter Bruggeman (Jr., G) has been adept at slashing to the basket.

Crookston’s capable of sustaining a blistering offensive rhythm with its starting five. Inevitably, though, those weapons either get tired, in foul trouble or both. That’s when games get away from it — see Jan. 2 against East Grand Forks as well as last Thursday for an example.

The Pirates should be able to improve on their 8-19 record from last season, looking at the schedule ahead. But a deeper, more consistent team might be able to threaten teams like Perham or East Grand Forks for longer than 10 to 20 minutes, and it’s hard to look at Crookston and say it has the potential to do so.

Girls’ basketball
Record: 13-2 (6-2 Section 8AA)

The Pirates have had a dominant start to 2020, winning all five games since the new year began and doing so by an average of 31.4 points. In short, they look an awful lot like they did when they won their first seven games of the season.

As far as new developments go, Emma Borowicz has found her stride. The junior guard, the Pirates’ leading scorer last season, averaged just 9.3 points over the first seven games this year. But since a 74-65 loss at Roseau on Dec. 19, Borowicz has almost doubled that, at 16.0, and scored 26 points against the Gators. Hayden Winjum (So., G) has also caught fire lately (14.3 points per game since Jan. 6) to form a lethal one-two punch.

We’ll soon see how much bearing these developments have. Crookston begins a stretch of eight straight section games on Jan. 23 against Perham. That includes Roseau, East Grand Forks and No. 1 Pelican Rapids in the span of five days next week. It’s a grueling, potentially season-defining stretch, but the Pirates are coming into it strong.

Boys’ hockey
Record: 1-15 (1-6 Section 8A)

This season has been bad break after bad break for the Pirates. The latest: they appeared set to turn a corner after a 7-2 blowout in Park Rapids on Jan. 13, only to have Ben Andringa (Sr., F) and Noah Dragseth (Jr., G) go down due to injury, joining Kaleb Thingelstad (Jr., F) on the shelf.

In recent history, late January has been when Crookston has started to turn things around. Instead, the Pirates will be tasked with merely surviving this year. The fact that Kittson Central (the highest-scoring team in the state), East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls are their next three games just makes things tougher.

However, the sky may finally (!) clear at the end of the month. Crookston gets three straight home games against Park Rapids, Lake of the Woods and International Falls, which might also be right around the timetable for the return of Andringa and Thingelstad (Dragseth could return as early as this week).

If they can use that stretch to build momentum down the stretch, the Pirates still have a chance to salvage some of what has been, by and large, a lost season.

Girls’ hockey
Record: 7-12 (1-5 Section 8A)

It’s not out of the question the Pirates finish with a winning record this year. Yes, really.

Five of Crookston’s six remaning games come against teams it has already beaten. The sixth game, at Devils Lake, is against a team which Crookston lost to in January, but which it outshot 29-19 and has had plenty of success against in the past.

The Pirates are pretty much locked into the Section 8A play-in game against Detroit Lakes — the question is whether or not they’ll host. A six-game winning streak to end the season couldn’t hurt their chances, and a win over the Lakers would then ensure a better-than-.500 record. (It would also basically ensure a semifinal matchup with Warroad, the No. 2 team in the state. Good luck with that.)

Should you bet your life savings on this happening? Of course not. But the fact that Crookston — which hasn’t had even a seven-win season since 2013 — has, on January 20, a plausible path to a winning record speaks for itself.

Lest I forget, 94.6 percent of the Pirates’ scoring is set to return next fall. Wherever the next three weeks may go, Crookston girls’ hockey is in a good place.

Wrestling
Record: 12-7 (5-1 Section 8A)

The Pirates might be Crookston’s hottest team at the moment. They’ve won eight straight dual meets, winning them by an average score of 53-19, and currently sit at third place in Section 8A.

Two Crookston wrestlers are currently ranked in the Top-10 statewide: Ethan Bowman (Fr.) is seventh at 113 pounds and Zach Brown sits fourth at 120. Brown, a junior and returning state qualifier, has won his last three matches, all by pin, in an average time of just 55 seconds.

Bowman and Brown, along with Nolan Dans, Cam Weiland and Braxton Volker, have given the Pirates a formidable early-weight lineup, but the recent improvement of Greg Gonzalez at 220 pounds has given Crookston stability later on in duals. The Pirates’ potential has always been there, but this is a team rounding into form.

Greater challenges await later this month, with this weekend’s tournament in Grand Rapids and an always-tough trip up north to Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, the reigning section champion.

The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730, Jacob Shames (405) 496-0168 or by email at jshames@crookstontimes.com.

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