Girls basketball: Cardinals’ defense smothers Two Harbors

Cromwell-Wright opens second half on 15-1 run; next game is against McGregor Monday, Jan. 13

Cromwell's Taya Hakamaki beats Two Harbors' Karly Holm to the basket for a layup after making a steal during a Polar League game Thursday, Jan. 9. Hakamaki scored a game-high 32 points in the Cardinals' 77-28 win. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Cromwell-Wright guard Taya Hakamaki poured in 32 points to lead the Cardinals to a 77-28 home win over Two Harbors Thursday, Jan. 9.

Instead of burying the Agates with 3-pointers, the senior sharpshooter used her defensive skills to initiate fast break opportunities for herself and teammates.

C-W held Two Harbors to just 15 first half points with Taya Hakamaki scoring 19 points and found teammates for layups or open 3-pointers to build a 26-point lead at halftime.

In the second half, the defensive display continued for the Cardinals, with Taya Hakamaki making steals on four of five Agate possessions that led to eight points on fast break layups. The outburst powered a 15-1 run that gave C-W a 56-16 lead with about 14 minutes to play.

C-W head coach Jeff Gronner has typically had strong shooters, but defense has been a calling card for the 2019-20 squad. While Taya Hakamaki is a big part of the Cardinal defense, it’s a team effort, according to Gronner.


“We’re a very good defensive team,” he said. “Besides Taya’s ball-hawking ability, we just do a good job defensively.”

The Cardinals have won 12-straight games after losing their season-opener to Minneota Nov. 23 — a 49-47 loss to the No. 1 ranked Class AA team in the state.

Offensively, the team is coming around, as well, something that starts with his two stars Taya Hakamaki and cousin Shaily Hakamaki. Shaily Hakamaki finished the game with 18 points.

Cromwell's Shaily Hakamaki scores over the defense of Two Harbors' Elise Poe-Johnson during the Cardinals' home win Thursday, Jan. 9. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

“Offensively, we’re doing a good job of moving the ball and, obviously, we usually have the best two girls on the floor every night by a lot,” Gronner said.

Two Harbors was led by senior center Tricia Osbakken with 11 points. Osbakken’s size — at 6-foot tall — posed a problem down low for C-W, but the Agate guards had trouble getting the ball inside consistently.


Two Harbors' Tricia Osbakken scores over Cromwell-Wright's Natalie Hakamaki during the Agates' loss Thursday, Jan. 9. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

Two Harbors has lost four of its past five games, but the Agates — despite the blowout loss to the Cardinals — have been competitive throughout the season. They’ve picked up wins over Carlton, Cook County and Duluth Denfeld, and they lost by just one point to Barnum on Jan. 2. The Bombers have improved dramatically since an 0-4 start to the season.

C-W (12-1) are next scheduled to host McGregor at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13.

Two Harbors (5-5) will travel to International Falls for a game at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11.

Two Harbors 15-13—28

Cromwell-Wright 41-36—77

Two Harbors — Karly Holm 5, Kate Thomasen 2, Morgan Beardsley 2, Rosie Cruikshank 1, Hailey Maher 5, Tricia Osbakken 11. Totals 11 4-6 28.


3-point goals — Holm, Maher.

Cromwell-Wright — Taya Hakamaki 32, Emmalee Hoover 5, Shaily Hakamaki 18, Natalee Hakamaki 7, Brandi Collman 2, Andrea Pocernich 9, Jordan Jokinen 2, Lacie Zoeller 2. Totals 31 8-11 77.

3-point goals — T. Hakamaki 3, Hoover, S. Hakamaki 2, Pocernich.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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