Crookston girls' basketball season in review
This article is the seventh 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, Crookston boys' basketball, Crookston girls' hockey, Crookston boys' hockey. Today: Crookston girls' basketball.
By almost every measure, the Crookston girls' basketball team was dominant in 2021.
The Pirates won 15 of their 19 games. They averaged more points than all but one team in Section 8AA. Per Minnesota-Scores.net, no team in the entire state, throughout all four classes, allowed fewer points per game than Crookston's 34.3.
Throughout the season, it appeared the Pirates were primed for a real run at a section championship and their first state tournament appearance since 2008. But the Class AA state tournament began March 30 and Crookston wasn't among the eight teams competing in it. Its season had ended 11 days earlier.
Barnesville, already having beaten the Pirates in February, beat them again on March 19 in the section quarterfinals, the same point at which they were eliminated last season.
It was a gut punch of an ending to arguably Crookston's best regular season in 13 years. Time will tell how much it overshadows what the Pirates had done to get there. But this team, no matter how history will reflect on it, really was that good.
Emma Borowicz, an All-State performer in her final season in a Crookston uniform, had perhaps her finest season yet, recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season to average nearly 15 points per game. Halle Winjum jumped into the starting lineup and nearly doubled her scoring average. Hayden Winjum was a force on defense and on the glass, Emma Boll was a rock inside, and Abby Borowicz and Emma Osborn gave complimentary shooting.
On any given night, the Pirates were liable to have a different player lead them in scoring. Their offense was crisp, balanced, efficient and fast-paced at its best. On defense, they forced over 20 turnovers per game, those steals often leading into easy points on the fast break.
Crookston feasted on minnows like Warroad and Thief River Falls. But against Section 8AA powers such as Barnesville, Breckenridge, Fergus Falls and Hawley, the Pirates' dominant formula was met with equal caliber.
In those matchups, they had to scrape out wins rather than cruise. Sometimes they did just that. And other times, such as that mid-March night against the Trojans, it just wasn't enough.
- Record: 15-4, 12-3 Section 8AA
- Regular season: first in Section 8AA North
- Postseason: lost 54-46 vs. Barnesville in Section 8AA quarterfinal
- Team stats: 57.8 points per game, 34.3 points allowed per game
- Statistical leaders: Emma Borowicz (14.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 3-pointers per game), Halle Winjum (12.4 ppg, 3.4 apg, 4.2 spg), Hayden Winjum (8.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.2 spg), Emma Osborn (7.3 ppg, 33.9 3pt%), Emma Boll (5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Abby Borowicz (4.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Ally Perreault (3.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg), Jenna Coauette (1.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
- Seniors: Emma Boll, Emma Borowicz
- All-State: Emma Borowicz
Last season, Crookston went 21-7 but couldn't get over the hump against Section 8AA's best, losing six close games to Roseau, Hawley and Pelican Rapids. The Pirates' final game of the season was a 49-44 loss to the Vikings in the section quarterfinals.
Crookston had a chance to make a statement in Pelican Rapids on Feb. 6; a chance to prove it could hang. That's not all it did. It threw a bonafide haymaker at the defending section champions, a team that hadn't lost a regular-season game in 781 days, and knocked them down to the canvas in a 49-34 win. The Pirates never trailed.
"We said that we were going to up our intensity even more than we had," said Emma Borowicz, who scored 13 points in the game. "We wanted to make sure there was no coming back."
Another memorable moment was the Pirates' 60-43 win at Perham on Feb. 25. Not only did it feature perhaps their best half of the season — a 46-point outburst to rally from a 23-14 halftime deficit — against a strong section opponent on the road, but it was Darin Zimmerman's 100th win as a head coach.
Losing Borowicz, a five-year varsity standout who ends her career third on Crookston's all-time scoring leaderboard, is the end of an era. Losing Boll means losing a capable interior scorer, defender and team leader.
Fortunately for the Pirates, everyone else will be back in the fold next year.
It was easy to forget that Halle Winjum was a freshman this season, due to her scoring and passing prowess. She'll likely only be improved as a sophomore. Hayden Winjum was almost impossible for opponents to get past with her athleticism and length, and should remain a consistent source for points, steals and deflections as a senior.
Osborn and Abby Borowicz should take on bigger roles next season, as should Ally Perreault in Boll's old role. Due to Crookston winning many games by such large margins, reserves such as Jenna Coauette, Amelia Overgaard and Madison Hoiland saw substantial playing time towards the end of games, experience which should bode well for them next year.
The Pirates will need to improve their consistency generating halfcourt offense, which sometimes stagnated against stronger opponents, and find a way to compensate for a relative lack of size down low. But Zimmerman, who has coached Crookston to an improved record in each of his first six years at the helm, should be able to build a contending team once again.
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