Pirates' season ends with 54-46 loss to Barnesville in section quarterfinals
It came as a surprise to just about everybody in the building.
With 1:05 to play and the Pirates trailing Barnesville by four points, Emma Borowicz hit Trojan eighth-grader Abby John on the arm as John scored on a layup. But the referees delayed giving John the ball for the ensuing free throw. There was some confusion. While the previous play, according to the scoreboard, was Borowicz's fourth foul, the official scorer had her at five.
The scoreboard flashed with this correction. Forced to exit the game, Borowicz took her spot on the Crookston bench, where she'd spend her final minute as a high school basketball player.
It was a sudden, awkward end to the career of one of the Pirates' all-time greats, who had fought tooth and nail to prolong it for at least one more game. But Borowicz's 23 points could not save the Pirates, who fell to Barnesville, 54-46, in the Section 8AA quarterfinals Friday night.
"She (went out) literally fighting and clawing and doing everything she had to do," Crookston coach Darin Zimmerman said of Borowicz. "She had a heck of a last game. It's tough. We didn't want it to be the last game."
The Pirates (15-4, 13-4 Section 8AA), the top seed in the North sub-section, knew they'd be in for a challenge with the Trojans. Despite being the No. 5 seed in the South sub-section, Barnesville had already beaten Crookston once this season, back on Feb. 20.
"They got a lot of good athletes, and this is a credit to their coaching staff and their kids. They all can play," Zimmerman said. "They all have different strengths and abilities, but they're all strong, they're all good players."
And they weren't scared of the high-pressure Pirate defense that's spent most of the year making mincemeat of opponents, allowing just 34 points per game.
Crookston forced five turnovers in the game's first three minutes, but once the Trojans (13-5, 11-5) got their legs underneath them, they picked apart the Pirates in a way few teams have done this season. They got to the basket with surprising frequency, attacking off the drive and forcing Crookston defenders to choose between fouling or allowing easy layups.
Meanwhile, the Pirates' offense struggled to shoot from outside and hardly had any more luck inside, with Barnesville posts Lauren Halverson and Emily Smith blocking or impacting every other layup attempt. Borowicz, who scored 13 in the first half, was the lone bright spot.
The Trojans' 33 points were the most points an opponent has scored in a single half against Crookston this season. But they didn't stop there. John banked home a layup to make it 42-31, Barnesville's largest lead of the night, with 12 minutes to play.
"Defensively, we weren't as strong as we normally are," Zimmerman said. "We fouled too much. One of the things that we're good at is limiting those penetrating plays and not allowing those things into the post. ... They got good looks in the paint, and we just didn't do a good job of stopping their penetrating plays."
Zimmerman took a timeout after John's layup, reminding his team how much time was left. Play with urgency, he instructed them, but settle down.
On one end of the court, Crookston was able to do so. It held Barnesville scoreless for the next seven-plus minutes, and without a field goal for nearly nine minutes.
But the Pirates couldn't take advantage on offense. They scored just six points during the aforementioned span, a microcosm of a night in which they only shot around 30 percent from the field.
"Offensively, we just we were a step off all night," Zimmerman said. "It wasn't for a lack of trying and kids working hard, but we just couldn't quite put the ball in the hoop when we needed to."
Borowicz, Crookston's leading scorer on the season, was the exception.
With 2:27 to play and Barnesville threatening to take a double-digit lead again, she drew a charge on Sam Passa. The Pirates set up down the court, and Borowicz sprung to the top of the key for a 3-pointer which bounced around on every piece of the rim before falling through. Two possessions later, she picked off a long Trojan pass and sprinted end-to-end, laying the ball in to bring the Pirates within 47-43.
But fouls, which had plagued Crookston all night, proved to be the downfall. Emma Boll, the Pirates' starting center and other starting senior, fouled out with four minutes to play. Point guard and second-leading scorer Halle Winjum picked up her fifth with two minutes left.
With Borowicz on the bench after a 23-point, seven-rebound performance, Crookston had nowhere to turn on offense — no other Pirate scored more than six points on the night. Barnesville hit four free throws in the final minute to seal the upset victory.
The Pirates have a mantra, one that they've been saying out loud more and more towards the end of the season. Next game, they remind each other. No matter what happens, there's another game, another practice where they can channel their disappointment into improvement.
For Borowicz and Boll, that's no longer the case. But Zimmerman still repeated the mantra to them after the game.
"Next game also means how they're gonna do in terms of living their life, which is the most important thing. We gotta persist and endure, and that's them now. I have no doubt they're gonna do just fine."
UP NEXT: Borowicz, a member of Crookston's varsity team since eighth grade, ends her career with 1,528 points. She's the program's third-leading scorer in history, behind Kamille Wahlin (2,274) and Sydney Boike (1,948).
Boll averaged 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in her lone season starting for the Pirates.
- Points: Emma Borowicz 23, Abby Borowicz 6, Halle Winjum 6, Emma Boll 4, Emma Osborn 3, Ally Perreault 2, Hayden Winjum 2
- Team: 14 field goals, five 3-pointers, 13-24 free throws
- Points: Abby John 18, Lexi Bolgrean 12, Lauren Halverson 9, Kim Maesse 6, Sam Passa 4, Olivia Sorenson 3, Emily Smith 2
- Team: 17 field goals, four 3-pointers, 16-32 free throws
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