Defense, rebounding lead to Crookston's 60-22 rout over Warroad
It didn't matter that the Crookston girls' basketball team struggled to hit shots in the early going Saturday.
The Pirates did something else instead: they didn't let Warroad even touch the ball.
A stellar performance on defense and on the offensive glass set the table for a blowout, and Crookston's offense eventually did find its way, feasting off of easy buckets in transition and at the rim. The end result — a 60-22 win over the Warriors — was never in doubt from there.
"We just found ways to get the job done," said Pirate coach Darin Zimmerman. "... Our defense was good enough to get us some points. Rebounding, that's all about effort and establishing position, and we were able to convert some opportunities there."
In Crookston's 63-57 season-opening loss to Breckenridge on Friday, that wasn't the case. The Pirates, in Zimmerman's opinion, were still adjusting to the speed of the game, and played somewhat sluggishly, unable to attack on offense and defense like they wanted to.
Zimmerman thought his team improved over the course of Friday's game, that being borne out by several rallies: Crookston came back in the second half after trailing the entire game, and responded to a second Cowgirl surge to force overtime. To him, the team that took the court Saturday was more energized, more established offensively and defensively, and played better fundamental basketball.
The Pirates' shots, though, weren't dropping.
They weren't terrible shots — although Zimmerman did feel his team could have been a bit more patient on offense — but mostly, it was just a typical early-season afternoon.
"We've been practicing for two weeks," Zimmerman said. "Kids had a hard time getting access to a gym, unless they had something around home in the garage or in the shop or something. It's just a matter of getting some shots up after the pause that we have. That will be nice when those start falling."
Emma Osborn (Jr.) got a couple to fall, spinning in a reverse layup (her first varsity points) before ripping the cord on a 3-pointer on the next possession to help Crookston take a 12-0 lead. Catherine Thompson hit an outside shot in response, getting Warroad on the board seven minutes into the game.
And that was it for the Warriors. They didn't score again for seven minutes, as Crookston went on a 19-0 run keyed by its energy on both ends. While the Pirates continued struggling from outside, they were so quick to grab their own rebounds that it didn't matter: many of their points came in the paint off second, third and even fourth chances.
Meanwhile, Warroad had a hard time even getting shots off against Crookston's stingy defense. Osborn, Hayden Winjum (Jr.), Emma Borowicz (Sr.) and Halle Winjum (So.) had nearly 20 steals between them for the game, and the Pirates routinely turned those into fast-break points.
The second half brought no reprieve for the Warriors. Crookston came out and scored eight points in two minutes, buoyed by four steals, to make it a 46-7 game.
"If we can win that phase of the game and excel and get opportunities there, we have really good athletes who are good and unselfish and play smart basketball," Zimmerman said. "... You saw how we were able to attack and convert opportunities into easier points."
Only a running clock and the Pirates playing their younger players and reserves down the stretch prevented the margin from being more lopsided. Crookston didn't score over the game's last eight minutes of running clock, but Zimmerman was able to get all 15 of his players into the game.
"Younger kids are the lifeblood of your program," he said. "They're gonna be there one day, and they work really hard in practice too. ... Defensively, they were very good right from the get-go."
Osborn led a balanced scoring effort with 13 points, with Hayden Winjum (12), Borowicz (nine), Ally Perreault (seven) and Halle Winjum (seven) close behind.
"Everybody was unselfish and patient on offense," Zimmerman said. "... We had a lot more kids get involved because they just had easier scoring opportunities, so we had the defense move and established better offensive position."
Zimmerman isn't too stressed about the Pirates' occasional offensive struggles. To him, they're doing all the right things — moving the ball, sharing the ball and getting in the right position. And they're creating loads of extra possessions through athleticism and hustle on both ends.
As Saturday showed, that's often more than enough.
UP NEXT: The Pirates will hit the road for the first time on Tuesday night when they take on Fertile-Beltrami. The Falcons are coming off a 9-17 season.
Despite being located just 25 miles apart from each other, Crookston and Fertile-Beltrami have not played each other in over 15 years. The last meeting between the two programs was an 86-27 Pirate win in Crookston on Dec. 1, 2005.
- Points: Emma Osborn 13, Hayden Winjum 12, Emma Borowicz 9, Ally Perreault 7, Halle Winjum 7, Amelia Overgaard 4, Emma Boll 4, Jenna Coauette 2, Madison Hoiland 2
- Team: 24 field goals, 2 3-pointers, 10-23 free throws
- Points: Catherine Thompson 13, Elyza Lilly 3, Brianna Lalim 2, Faith Lilly 2, Katherine Schreiner 2
- Team: 8 field goals, 2 3-pointers, 4-7 free throws
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