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Girls basketball: Cardinals ground Bombers

Cromwell-Wright's girls basketball coach Jeff Gronner talks to the Cardinals team during a timeout in the game against Barnum on Monday, Dec. 3. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal1 / 3
Cromwell-Wright's Shaily Hakamaki scores over Barnum's Reese Miletich during the Polar League game Monday, Dec. 3. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal2 / 3
Barnum's Jordyn Marine scores past the defense of Cromwell-Wrights's Amber Collman during the Polar League basketball game Monday, Dec. 3. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal3 / 3

Cromwell-Wright's Taya Hakamaki scored 31 points to lead the Cardinals to a 77-33 win at Barnum on Monday, Dec. 3.

It was just the second game back for the junior guard after she missed most of last season with a devastating knee injury. In the opening game of the 2017-18 campaign, Hakamaki tore her ACL. She toughed it out for another five games, but eventually had to shut down her season in favor of surgery to repair the damage.

"This year, I feel like I've come back, both physically and mentally, because I worked out all summer," she said. "Also, I was shooting hoops all summer, so I feel like that was a driver to where I am now."

After a full season of volleyball and two games of basketball, Hakamaki said she feels strong and she hasn't had any pain or swelling. She feels confident cutting, jumping and landing on the surgically repaired knee.

Cromwell-Wright coach Jeff Gronner said he was really happy with they way Hakamaki played in just her second game back in a Cardinal uniform.

"She's obviously a very good athlete and a gifted basketball player," he said. "She runs our offense and she runs our defense, as far as getting steals and being active."

The Cardinals overall looked about as confident and strong as Hakamaki felt about her knee, using a full-court press to disrupt the Barnum offense. After falling behind 4-2 in the opening moments of the game, Cromwell-Wright went on a 22-0 run and never looked back.

The press defense prevented the Bombers from setting up their offense and taking advantage of sophomore Jordyn Marine's height advantage. The 6-foot-2 center was able to use her height to score to score four early points. However, once the Cardinal press locked down the Barnum guards in the backcourt, Marine's touches fell and Bomber turnovers exploded, with Cromwell-Wright forcing 19 turnovers in the first half alone.

"I have a lot of girls who have a lot of experience and a lot of athleticism," Gronner said. "I want to be able to do full-court pressure and get a lot of touches."

Gronner said his defense improved a lot over the team's first game, a 62-54 win over Cherry on Nov. 29. The Cardinals' defense is rounding into shape. Gronner believes the team's shooting, which included 11 made 3-pointers from five different players, will continue to improve as they play and practice more together.

Barnum was hampered by more than just turnovers against Cromwell-Wright. Mallory Agurkis, one of just two seniors on the team, was out with an injury she suffered in the Bombers' 58-48 win over Virginia on Friday, Nov. 30. Agurkis is one of Barnum's best defenders and one of the team's top scorers.

"It was a tough loss, but they are a great team," Barnum coach Dustin Collelo said. "We are young and inexperienced and they aren't. Not having Mallory on the floor was huge for us. She is a good defender and an excellent backside rebounder."

Kendall Miletich and Marine each had nine points to pace the Bombers.

Cromwell-Wright (2-0) will have its first home game against Deer River at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.

Barnum (2-1) will play Moose Lake-Willow River at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, in Barnum.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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