Crookston begins tough stretch with 'tough' win over Hawley, 53-46
In basketball, college basketball especially, the word "March" is synonymous with drama, intensity and memorable clutch performances. Tuesday night inside the Crookston High School Gym had all of that.
Thanks to Halle Winjum's 22 points, Emma Borowicz's 18 and no shortage of big-time plays at big-time moments, Crookston outlasted Hawley, 53-46, in overtime.
The clash between the two top teams in Section 8AA North was everything it was expected to be. But more importantly for the Pirates, it was a distillation of everything they can hope to expect for the rest of the month.
Crookston's home stretch is set up to be challenging, with six games in the span of two weeks before the playoffs begin. Tuesday's game was the first of those six. Pirates coach Darin Zimmerman recognizes the challenges of such a packed schedule, especially as rest and fatigue becomes even more important with the postseason looming.
But on the positive side: games like Tuesday's, and the games that will follow it, are almost a crash-course in preparation for the postseason and its high-intensity games every other day.
"The gym was loud, emotions were high and energy was high," Zimmerman said. "It's March, and we're close to the (Section 8AA) tournament, and everybody knows that. So being able to play composed, play good basketball, especially when we really, really needed to, that's the biggest takeaway from this game."
Tuesday's game began low-scoring, but it was never boring. The Pirates (10-3, 8-3 section) took an 8-2 lead out of the gates, and led 14-11 on a Borowicz 3-pointer with 6:11 before halftime. The Nuggets, though, rallied to take a 21-20 lead at halftime.
At this point, Zimmerman thought, Crookston wasn't cutting or moving off the ball as hard as it should have been. Its offense was stagnant, its defense was slow, and Hawley took advantage, building a 27-22 lead in the second half's opening minutes.
Winjum changed all of that. She drilled a corner 3-pointer, on a possession where it seemed like she was hunting for one the whole way, to make it 27-25. A smooth reverse layup off the glass tied it at 29, and another three on an ensuing possession made it 32-29. The Nuggets didn't lead after that.
"If I missed a shot or something on offense didn't go my way, I just forgot about it and kept going," Winjum said. "You gotta keep shooting, don't think about your misses."
Both teams settled down after making their runs early in the half, and the last 10 minutes were back-and-forth. It looked as if the Pirates had escaped with a win, though, when they took a 42-38 lead on a Winjum free throw with 36 seconds to go.
But Hawley (8-6, 8-6), which had lived by the 3-pointer all game, was saving up for the fireworks. After two Nugget free throws and a 1-of-2 trip by Winjum, Hawley ran a play for Lily Peterson, who flared open at the top of the key and drilled a game-tying three with 7.2 seconds to play in regulation.
"We do a lot of team huddles to kind of regroup ourselves," Winjum said. "If they go on a run, we like to get together and calm our nerves, and we're just there for each other. We know that we got each other's backs."
That's what happened in overtime. Emma Boll scored the go-ahead basket midway through overtime, and Hayden Winjum forced a steal, passing ahead to Borowicz for a layup to make it 47-43 with 2:30 to play.
But Peterson hit her fourth 3-pointer to cut it back to 47-46, and on Hawley's next possession, found herself open again, in the left corner with a chance to give her team the lead.
She missed, and the Nuggets didn't score again.
While Hawley did most of its damage outside, hitting 10 3-pointers, the Pirates made their money inside. Winjum and Borowicz's constant drives to the rim allowed them to get in the bonus with seven minutes to play. Meanwhile, Crookston committed just five fouls in the second half and overtime combined.
In all reality, this was the difference in the game. The Pirates hit 18 of 26 free throws, while the Nuggets only made seven trips to the line.
After Peterson's last miss, Hawley soon had to resort to fouling. Crookston went 6-of-8 from the line in the last 90 seconds of overtime.
"At the end of the game, getting those two shots every time you got fouled because you're in the double bonus, it takes a little pressure off you, knowing that," Zimmerman said.
It may not be the prettiest way to win; constantly battering inside and salting away a victory at the free-throw line. But the Pirates weren't necessarily going for pretty.
"We've been emphasizing tough a lot lately," Winjum said. "Playoffs are coming up, so we need to be tough. Z keeps saying, 'Tough teams play in March.' ... We just pushed through, we stayed intense the whole game, and the main word was tough for us."
What better way to kick off the toughest month of the season with a tough win?
UP NEXT: Crookston travels to Roseau Thursday to take on the 5-9 Rams. The Pirates beat Roseau, 73-29, on Jan. 26 in Crookston.
- Points: Halle Winjum 22, Emma Borowicz 18, Emma Boll 7, Hayden Winjum 4, Ally Perreault 2
- Team: 16 field goals, three 3-pointers, 18-26 free throws
- Points: Kylie Crabtree 12, Lily Peterson 12, Anna Steer 10, Kaylie Crabtree 8, Abigail Rux 2, Alex Eilertson 2
- Team: 16 field goals, 10 3-pointers, 4-7 free throws
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