It keeps happening.
All season long, Crookston boys' basketball has given up big games to opposing guards. East Grand Forks' Julian Benson went off for 49 on Jan. 2. Derek Peterson and Eric Gieseke of Red Lake County combined for 37 on Jan. 15. Barnesville's Adam Tonsfeldt lit up the Pirates for 36 on Jan. 21.
On Saturday, Bereket Loer became the latest. The Wadena-Deer Creek junior nailed six 3-pointers and scored 31 points, leading the Wolverines to a 72-59 win over Crookston in a Section 8AA game at Crookston High School.
"I thought it's a game we could have won and didn't," said Crookston head coach Greg Garmen. "Just needed to be sharper in all areas."
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Pirates, dropping them to 7-10 and 4-8 in section play. The Wolverines, meanwhile improved to 11-6 and 5-3.
Less than 20 hours after a big win over Warroad, 72-70, which took place in a packed gym with an electric atmosphere, Crookston couldn't summon the same energy early.
Wadena-Deer Creek, instead, came out firing, hitting four 3-pointers early. This, combined with an intense full-court pressure defense, allowed the Wolverines to take a 14-2 lead minutes into the game.
"We get an atmosphere like today where the gym's kinda empty, we kinda have to make our own energy," said Caden Osborn (Sr., C). "We just couldn't produce."
Furthermore, the Pirates struggled to feed the ball inside to Osborn, their leading scorer and rebounder, due to Wadena-Deer Creek's 3-2 zone. But Crookston got him going midway through the half, as well as making a few shots from outside, and pulled to within 21-17.
But the Wolverines turned up the heat from deep again to close the half. They knocked down three more treys before the half was over, taking a 32-20 lead into the break. The Pirates rescued only a little momentum on a Walker Winjum (Sr., G) three to beat the buzzer.
"We hit some shots and we had to spend some energy doing that," Garmen said. "Then we give up three threes, so that sorta deflated us again and then they got going."
Crookston kept pace with WDC at the start of the second half, but couldn't contain them for long. Behind a lights-out backcourt of Loer and Lucas Hinojos (19 points), the Wolverines opened up a 57-36 lead with eight minutes to play.
"(Loer) normally shoots the ball a lot," Osborn said. "We played him in the summer, he just shot the lights out. ... We seem to struggle against little guys, and (Loer)'s a great example."
The Pirates weren't done yet, despite the Wolverines looking like they had sunk them once and for all. Winjum had some nice drives to the basket while Jack Garmen (Jr., G) hit two 3-pointers, pulling Crookston within 11 late.
With two minutes to play, though, the Pirates had no choice but to begin fouling to try to extend the game and their comeback. In the end, WDC knocked down just enough of its free throws to win comfortably.
Saturday's loss seemed to be a microcosm of everything that has hurt Crookston at times this season. Apart from the normal torching by an opposing guard, the Pirates' streakiness from outside, coupled with a lack of successful penetration, hurt them as well.
"It's tough for us to move while we're not hitting shots and we're fighting for every single point we can," Osborn said. "A lot of teams around the area are just getting easy baskets on us every time, and it seems like we have to fight for all of our baskets."
Osborn finished with 19 points, while Winjum and Garmen both added 13. Carter Bruggeman (Jr., G) scored six points, Easton Tangquist (Jr., G) had five and Brady Butt (Sr., F) scored three.
"We didn't give up," Garmen said. "We kept chipping away, trying, and just didn't have the mojo or whatever you wanna call it today and that hurts."
UP NEXT: Crookston is on the road on Monday to take on Hawley. The Nuggets are far removed from going 23-5 last year, sitting at just 3-12 and 2-7 in Section 8AA.
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 email@example.com.
Follow along on Twitter @CroxTimesSports and @Jacob_Shames for all the latest stories and live game updates.