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Lady Cardinals create chaos on the court

Cromwell-Wright’s Chelsea Swatek drives the lane during Saturday morning's basketball scrimmages in Esko. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com 1 / 2
Cromwell-Wright’s Andrea Hakamaki shoots a jumper during Saturday morning's scrimmages in Esko. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com 2 / 2

ESKO—When watching Jeff Gronner’s Cromwell-Wright girls basketball team play in Saturday’s scrimmages in Esko, substitutions sometimes looked chaotic as the fourth-year coach decided which players to sub for the Cardinals.

Don’t worry. Chaos is the norm for the talented team.

Cromwell-Wright had anything but a normal season a winter ago, as Gronner watched his Cardinals set a school record with 26 wins before falling short of the five-time defending Section 7A champions Mountain Iron-Buhl (MIB).

Advancing to last year’s final for the first time in close to a decade, Cromwell-Wright was one of the fastest, quickest and most entertaining teams around. The Cardinals created havoc every night, subbing players in pairs, or pods, to expand the floor with an in-your-face, full-court press, much like MIB.

However, instead of trying to exact revenge on the Rangers this season, Cromwell-Wright will bring its pestering pressure act to Section 5A, after being reassigned by the Minnesota State High School in their regulatory section evaluations.

Although Cardinals fans may be excited to avoid mighty MIB, Gronner said it doesn’t get any easier with Browerville, current back-to-back champions who bring back all five starters.

“We beat them in a summer game, but that’s different than a regular game,” said Gronner of the pressure-paced Tigers. “It gave us confidence that we can compete with them. Hopefully we’ll be in a situation where we will see them.”

If that’s the case, it would be for the section crown. If the Cardinals take away the Tigers’ trophy next March, it would be Cromwell-Wright’s first state appearance since 2004.

Dave Foster was the Cardinals coach then and this winter, conveniently, he has returned to help his good buddy Gronner. The pair has coached the town’s football team for a while now, winning a Prep Bowl together in 2010.

“We have a good relationship together,” Gronner said.

Cromwell-Wright returns a bevy of talent, including reigning Polar League MVP junior Chelsea Swatek, and all-conference teammates senior Andrea Hakamaki, junior Bailey Gronner and sophomore Teana Hakamaki.

Andrea and Teana are half the Hakamakis on the team, as eighth-graders Shaily and Taya are also listed. Gronner added that seniors Kiiera Anderson and Olivia Cahoon will also aid.

“This might be one of our best years,” said Swatek. “We all shoot, we’re all fast, and we’ve become super aggressive.”

“We like to pressure people,” added Andrea Hakamaki. “We all like to play at the same pace — which is really fast.”

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