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Pirates back on a roll

The Crookston girls basketball team has played a variety of opponents so far this season. The Pirates have taken on teams from all four Minnesota classifications, as well as teams from North Dakota.

The Crookston girls basketball team has played a variety of opponents so far this season. The Pirates have taken on teams from all four Minnesota classifications, as well as teams from North Dakota.

On Tuesday, Grand Forks Red River found out what nearly every other Crookston opponent has found out this year: The Pirates are good.

Crookston built a 14-point halftime lead, then outscored Red River 26-2 to start the second half en route to a 72-42 win over the Roughriders in the Red River gymnasium.

The Pirates, who finished runner-up at the Minnesota Class AA state tournament last spring, improved to 10-1. Crookston lost to Winona Cotter 58-56 on Saturday. Winona Cotter was previously ranked No. 2 and the Pirates No. 1 in the latest Class AA girls basketball poll.

After three straight victories, Red River dropped to 4-5.

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"It's a great schedule because we get to see a variety of styles and matchups," Crookston coach Kris Evje said. "It should prepare us for tournament time. We should go into those games with the experience of how to match up with different teams, but still play our style."

It took a few minutes Tuesday, but the Pirates eventually played their style.

Eight minutes into the first half, Crookston led 16-14 after Red River post Sarah Smith hit a free throw.

The Pirates went on a quick 10-0 run and never looked back. Sydney Epema and Kamille Wahlin each had a 3-pointer in the spurt.

"We have to do a better job taking care of the ball," Red River coach Justin Schommer said. "We started well but turned the ball over and that's how Crookston pulled away."

Wahlin, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. Wahlin has drawn interest from college basketball programs, including UND and NDSU.

"She does what we need," Evje said. "If we need a big basket, or we need her to rebound or need a lockdown defender, she'll do it. She's versatile and has a knack for understanding the game and stepping up in big moments."

After a good start, the Roughriders struggled from the field and buckled under the Pirates' pressure defense.

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Katie Johnke's jumper from the right wing late in the second half was the only basket outside the paint for Red River in the final 18 minutes.

Vanessa Riski scored 12 points to pace the Roughriders. Smith added nine and Johnke eight for Red River.

After Wahlin's 22 points, Epema scored 11 and Macy Hanson 10 for the Pirates.

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