CROMWELL — Over their decorated girls basketball careers at Cromwell-Wright, featuring plenty of trophies, medals and milestones, cousins Taya and Shaily Hakamaki have accomplished just about everything on the court at the small school.
But Monday night was a first.
In fact, what the pair of Cardinals seniors did earlier this week was so rare that it is said to be a first in Minnesota state hoops history, as the Hakamakis each scored their 2,000th career points — in the same game.
Make that the same half of Cromwell-Wright's 62-29 victory over visiting South Ridge on Monday, Feb. 17. Taya laid in her bucket within the opening minute of the first half; Shaily banked hers in near the last minute of the first half.
After Shaily hit the milestone, the teammates shared a hug and high-five near midcourt. The timing was impeccable. The Cardinals’ faithful commended the Hakamakis and coach Jeff Gronner said a few words.
“She’s basically my sister and she always has been, so to be able to do that together is something I’ll never forget,” said Shaily, finishing the game with 22 points. “It’s unreal. Just amazing.”
“We definitely made history,” added Taya, who had a game-high 23 points. “I’m just really happy that we were able to share this moment.”
The moment was shared by many afterward, as the nearby auxiliary gym was filled like a graduation party in congratulating the pair. Over 50 people crowded the small space as plenty of friends, family and media shared smiles, hugs and conducted postgame interviews.
Taya and Shaily shed their decorative signs and snapped picture after picture, capturing the once-in-a-lifetime evening. Currently, Taya has 2,046 points, and Shaily 2,013.
While only about a half-dozen prep tandems have scored their 2,000th point in the same season, Gronner said he believes this is a state first. He admitted he was doing the math throughout the winter and knew his pair of Division II Minnesota-Duluth commits could do it.
“They’re special athletes,” said Gronner, who brought the two gym rats up to varsity as seventh-graders six seasons and countless accomplishments ago. “It seems like they have been around forever and they have been. It’s been a joy. It obviously makes my job a lot easier to have two girls like that.”
“It’s been an honor playing with them, they’re just two amazing players,” added sophomore Andrea Pocernich. “(Tonight) was really special. They are huge role models. I’d say they’re the two best players I’ve seen.”
The girls are looking to add to back-to-back state trips in 2016 and 2017, which both Hakamakis were a part of. The girls and boys teams are combined 41-4 this season and the girls ranked No. 2 in Class A. Some games easily pack in more fans than their town’s less-than 300 population, like Monday.
Asked to sum up basketball at their school, Pocernich said: “It’s kind of on a high. It’s been a lot of fun.”
That fun will look to continue entering March, as the Cardinals (23-2) will receive the top seed and look to dethrone nine-time defending Section 7A champion Mountain Iron Buhl. Cherry, a team Cromwell-Wright beat 66-51 Tuesday, Feb. 18, is also looking to break through. MIB corralled the Cardinals in a 50-31 win in last year’s 7A final.
The mindset is simple.
“Number one is to get through Section 7,” said Gronner. “If we do that, our goal is to win the whole thing. But, it’s not going to be easy getting down there.”
Armed with the Hakamakis, including Shaily’s sister, sophomore Natalee Hakamaki, as well as Pocernich, and several more shooters and in-your-face defenders, Cromwell-Wright is equipped for the challenge. Their two losses are 49-47 to Class A’s top-ranked Minneota and 64-62 to Class AAA Hermantown, who also has 23 wins.
So, while the Hakamakis' moment was shared Monday, its business as usual on the court, as the duo has other things to add to their list of accomplishments before they spend four more years together as Bulldogs.
“A state championship,” said Taya. “We’re ranked second in state, so that gives us a lot of confidence that we can get there and win.”
South Ridge 14-15—29
South Ridge — Rylee Young 3, Lexi Bergum 2, Paris FierkeLepp 4, Alana Young 6, Lauren Olson 5, Adella Olesiak 8, Leanna Olson 1. Totals 11 2-4 29.
3-point goals — R. Young, A. Young, Lauren Olson, Olesiak 2.
Cromwell-Wright — Taya Hakamaki 23, Emmalee Hoover 3, Katherine Libbon 2, Shaily Hakamaki 22, Sascha Korpela 5, Brandi Collman 2, Andrea Pocernich 2, Amber Collman 3. Totals 22 14-19 62.
3-point goals — T. Hakamaki 3, Hoover.