The Pirates won by a double-digit margin for the ninth time.

VIRGINIA - The Crookston Pirates and Virginia Blue Devils played a tantalizingly close contest for about 29 minutes, but defense and production at the free throw line allowed Crookston to stave off Virginia on the road and leave with a 53-42 win.

    “I think our defense certainly helped,” Zimmerman said on closing out the win. “Not that we got a lot of turnovers, but we were able to get [Virginia] to speed up a little bit and that got our offense going. We scored in transition a little bit and got to run out some long rebounds.”

    Emma Borowicz (So. G) led the Pirates (10-2) in points with 19. Gretchen Theis (Jr. G) added 12 off the bench, Kylie Solheim (Sr. G) put up nine, Hayden Winjum (Fr. G) contributed four, Dani Boyle (Jr. G) scored three and Emma Boll (So. F), Rachel Hefta (Sr. F) and Kasey Cwikla (Jr. G) each notched two.

    For Virginia's (4-9) top scorers, Rylee Kelly (Sr. F) totaled 14, and Lexiss Trygg (So. F) scored 11.

    The Pirates used a trio of three-pointers by Boyle, Winjum and Theis to reach 21 points in the first half. Anna Fink (Fr. G) provided the only trey for the Blue Devils in the opening half, and Crookston went into the locker room with a slim 21-20 lead.

    “We weren’t shooting particularly well,” Zimmerman said. “We had too many turnovers. We were trying to score too early in a possession. We had a lot of quick shots, and we didn’t have rebounders in place for an offensive rebound.”

    Halftime provided a chance to regroup offensively, and the adjustments showed after the intermission. Crookston did not convert on any three-pointers, but did score on nine two-point field goals.

    Zimmerman said play in transition led to the increase in offense.

    “We were able to get some reversals, run our offense a bit better and running the floor in transition really opened some things up for us,” Zimmerman said. “Even if we didn’t score in transition, we were stretching the defense. We were creating some gaps in lanes where girls were stepping in and making some shots.”

    Virginia matched Crookston's point-scoring and after trailing by nine at one point, cut the Pirates' lead to two in the final minutes.

    Crookston avoided costly turnovers, drew the necessary fouls and cashed in on opportunities from the charity stripe to preserve their lead. In the second half, 14 of the Pirates' points came from free throws after only two in half number one.

    “Emma [Borowicz] was 9-of-10 in the second half, and Kylie was 4-for-4 in the second half,” Zimmerman said on his team's performance at the free throw line. “A lot of those free throws came in the last seven minutes. They just did a really good job of protecting the ball and sinking free throws.”

    The Pirates finished 16-of-22 from the line on the night and own a team percentage of 63 on the season.

    Borowicz has scored the most from the free throw line for Crookston this season with 50 points, but it is Solheim who owns the best percentage on the team at 82.7 (24-of-29).

    “[Kylie's] just really steady,” Zimmerman said. “She makes a lot of plays. I thought one thing Kylie did especially well, other than taking care of the ball and making free throws, was she came up with some big rebounds. She just has a nose for the ball, and she’s a player in those close games that seems to raise up and even play better.”

    The Pirates return to the court in another road game against Hibbing on Saturday, January 12 at 2:30 p.m.

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For feedback or questions, contact the Times at (218) 281-2730, Nolan Beilstein at (940) 372-8175 or by email at nbeilstein@crookstontimes.com.