Pirates wake up in second half to beat Climax-Fisher, 68-39
Written on the wall of the Crookston boys' basketball team's locker room is the famous saying from Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
At halftime of the Pirates' game against Climax-Fisher, coach Greg Garmen made his team aware of it.
"Just clean it up," senior Carter Bruggeman said of Garmen's message to his team. "... If other people beat us, they beat us. But we don't wanna beat ourselves."
When the second half began, it quickly became clear the Knights weren't capable of doing the former. The Pirates, meanwhile, had apparently heard their coach's message, and decided they weren't about to do the latter.
Crookston (1-2) scored the first 16 points of the half and cruised from there, beating Climax-Fisher 68-39 Thursday night at CHS for its first win of the season.
"We finally shot the ball a little bit better and hit a few shots when we needed to," Garmen said. "I thought we rebounded pretty well, did a good job defensively."
The Pirates' defensive performance was strong throughout. They forced turnovers left and right, and held the Knights' All-Conference keystone, Dylan Evitts, in check most of the night. Evitts matched his 2019-20 average of 18 points per game, but many of his points came well into garbage time.
"We came out with a game plan and that was to stop Evitts from scoring a lot of points," Bruggeman said. "I think we did that well. We put guys on him who needed to be on him and switched accordingly."
But at the beginning, that was all Crookston could say. After a 9-0 run to start the game keyed by five points from senior guard Jacob Miller, the Pirates fell out of rhythm. Climax-Fisher (0-3) spent the next eight minutes chipping away, coming within 18-14 five minutes before halftime.
In particular, Garmen wasn't thrilled with his team's shot selection. He also bemoaned Crookston's inability to execute ball screens: the Pirates were whistled for multiple illegal screens because the screener didn't get in position in time.
"We were shooting (too many) threes at the time," he said. "We needed to get the ball inside a little bit and be a little more patient. ... That really disrupted the flow."
The Pirates scuffled towards halftime before receiving a late spark. In appropriate fashion for the first half, it wasn't clean, but it was as just effective as it needed to be.
On the half's final possession, Brooks Butt launched a 3-pointer that caromed off the back rim and into the hoop. The fans in attendance roared, and the junior forward saluted a group of students sitting to the side as he backpedaled onto the defensive end.
Butt hit another 3-pointer in similar fashion after intermission, but this time, it was part of the resulting surge of momentum. Jack Garmen (Jr., G) scored an and-1 layup in transition, then ripped the cord on a three of his own to make it 38-14. Crookston kept the surge going, and all in all, it went in the books as a 25-0 run between the first and second half.
Getting out in transition helped the Pirates' cause. Climax-Fisher continued to struggle shooting and holding onto the ball, and Crookston turned defense into offense to power its run, scoring plenty of points on the fast break.
"I thought we were more aggressive tonight," Greg Garmen said. "Just active hands and getting to loose balls. Second half, especially, we came out and got a lot of loose balls right away. That led to some run-outs. We haven't had many run-outs all year."
Bruggeman, who had been quiet in the first half, took the reins shortly afterwards. Not willing to let the Knights get back in the game, he scored 13 straight points for his team, blending powerful drives to the basket with a soft outside shooting touch.
With the score 67-32 after Bruggeman's individual run, the senior checked out to raucous applause. He finished with a game-high 21 points, 19 of them coming after halftime.
"If he's hitting threes, it's hard to guard him," Garmen said. "He can shoot the three a little bit better this year, but he loves to take it to the rim. He did that pretty well and finished around the hoop. That's what we gotta have him do."
Jack Garmen scored 14 points, and Easton Tangquist (Sr., G) added 10. Butt, who energized the Pirates when they needed it most, finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
Garmen was able to take all of them out of the game with the clock winding down, getting them rest and getting younger players and reserves some action. After the first two games of the season, during which Crookston was often its own worst enemy, it was a moment worth enjoying.
UP NEXT: Crookston is off until next Tuesday, Jan. 26, when it takes on Thief River Falls on the road. The Prowlers are 2-1 on the season, their lone loss coming to defending Section 8AA champion Perham.
Crookston and TRF split last year's season series, with both teams winning at home.
"They have bigger kids than we do, so we're gonna have to be ready to battle," Garmen said.
Climax-Fisher travels to Bagley Friday night to take on the 0-2 Flyers.
- Points: Carter Bruggeman 21, Jack Garmen 14, Easton Tangquist 10, Brooks Butt 7, Jacob Miller 7, Jacob Hesby 5, Tristen Luckow 3, Evan Christensen 1
- Team: 22 field goals, eight 3-pointers, 16-24 free throws
- Points: Dylan Evitts 18, Aidan Rogenes 8, Jory Vasek 6, Carter Helgeson 3, Ethan Evitts 2, Zach Helgeson 2
- Team: 17 field goals, one 3-pointer, 4-7 free throws
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