Crookston boys' basketball season in review
This article is the fourth in a series recapping the winter sports season for Crookston High School and the University of Minnesota Crookston. Previously: UMC women's basketball, UMC hockey, UMC men's basketball. Today: Crookston boys' basketball.
Somewhere in the glossary of basketball lingo you'll find a four-word saying made famous by the likes of announcer Dick Vitale and former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden: "You can't teach height."
If Crookston boys' basketball coach Greg Garmen actually was able to teach height, the Pirates might have had an easier go of things in 2021. But they just weren't able to overcome their biggest disadvantage.
"It's such a tall man's game," Garmen said after a 75-65 loss to Roseau in Crookston's second game of the season. "We're not very tall man-for-man, so it's gonna be a challenge."
Even then, Garmen was able to predict the road ahead.
Crookston lost 17 of 19 games this season and went 0-12 in Section 8AA play, largely the result of an undersized roster. While the returning backcourt trio of Carter Bruggeman, Easton Tangquist and Jack Garmen tried to keep the Pirates afloat, they were routinely overwhelmed by larger, taller teams in the paint and on the glass.
With no regular players above 6-foot-2 and a roster heavy on guards but light on post players, Crookston played a perimeter-oriented style. Nearly half of its shots came from 3-point range, and most of its 2-point attempts came on drives by Bruggeman, Garmen and Tangquist.
When the Pirates hit shots, they were often able to compete. They knocked down 13 3-pointers against Win-E-Mac on Feb. 16, nearly rallying against a Patriot team that went 16-4. They did the same a week later against Section 8A West runners-up Fertile-Beltrami, and blew out Fosston on Senior Night behind 10 first-half treys.
For the season, however, Crookston shot just 27 percent from 3-point range, 34 percent overall and just 55 percent from the line. This, in tandem with their disadvantage inside, was the Pirates' downfall.
Garmen and Tangquist earned All-Conference honors, and young players like Jacob Hesby and Tristan Luckow took big steps forward this season. But with five seniors graduating, Crookston's need to find size will only grow more pressing.
- Record: 2-17, 0-12 Section 8AA
- Regular season: ninth in Section 8AA North
- Postseason: lost 74-65 at Roseau in Section 8AA North play-in game
- Team stats: 51.1 points per game, 68.1 points allowed per game
- Statistical leaders: Easton Tangquist (12.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg), Jack Garmen (11.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 spg), Carter Bruggeman (9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Jacob Hesby (6.8 ppg, 31.7% 3pt), Tristan Luckow (5.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Jacob Miller (3.9 ppg, 2.0 spg), Brooks Butt (2.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
- Seniors: Carter Bruggeman, Easton Tangquist, Jacob Miller, Karsten Isaacson, Lucas Winger
- All-Conference: Jack Garmen, Easton Tangquist (honorable mention)
Crookston's Senior Night demolition of Fosston was a fleeting glimpse at what the Pirates had the ability to be when everything aligned just right.
Luckow knocked down three 3-pointers in the first six minutes, as did Tangquist. Tangquist drilled an NBA-range triple six minutes before halftime. Crookston led by 16 points at the half and spent most of the second half casually flicking the ball around the perimeter to waste time.
The Senior Night win snapped an 11-game losing streak for the Pirates. Especially their five seniors, who spent the last three minutes of the game on the court together, it served as needed affirmation of their hard work at the tail end of a trying season.
"We could have just given up," Tangquist said after the game. "We chose not to, because we know what we can be and who we can be."
Tangquist and Bruggeman, starters in both of the last two seasons, leave a void. If the Pirates needed instant offense, their best bet was often to turn to Tangquist, while Bruggeman brought a unique dimension with his combination of size and craftiness in getting to the rim.
Other seniors include Jacob Miller, who brought shooting and defensive presence (a team-leading 38 steals), as well as Karsten Isaacson and Lucas Winger. Along with Tangquist and Bruggeman, it's a senior class that's played together since elementary school.
In moving forward from those losses, Crookston will have to turn to seniors-to-be Garmen, Hebsy and Brooks Butt. Garmen was the Pirates' primary 3-point target this season, knocking down 2.2 of his 6.8 attempts per game on average. Hesby got hot towards the end of the season, as evidenced by a 25-point, seven-trey game against Warren-Alvarado-Oslo. Butt gave Crookston a needed physical presence in the paint. Luckow, who will be a junior, figures to play an important role as well with his athleticism.
The Pirates have some returning talent for next season, but in order to improve on this season's record, they'll likely have to acquire more size somehow or compensate for it. After all, it's not something that can be taught.
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