Crissinger exits prep basketball career in grand style

TWO MORE POINTS — Fairmont Cardinals senior post player Taylor Crissinger (21) drives past a Worthington defender to score a basket during regular-season action at Cardinal Gym in Fairmont. Crissinger cleared the 1,000-point career scoring mark during her final prep basketball game on Feb. 26. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Taylor Crissinger ended her high school basketball career in grand fashion.

In a Section 2AA, South Sub-Section quarterfinal game against Waterville-Elysian-Morristown on Feb. 26, Crissinger scored her 1,000th career point during her final prep basketball game.

She entered the game needing six points to reach the milestone and scored 12 in the first half before finishing the game with 18.

Crissinger ended her career as the sixth-best scorer in Fairmont girls history with 1,012 points. She also notched third place in Cardinals girls history with 815 career rebounds.

Crissinger said she knew the scoring milestone was coming, but didn’t focus on it or change her game.

“I knew how far away I was when I had about 40 points to go,” Crissinger said. “I definitely was thinking about it, but I tried to just focus on playing my game and letting the points come when they could.”

She said when it happened, she felt a lot of emotions, but had to stay focused.

“It was a rush of emotions,” Crissinger said. “I was relieved, proud and excited, but I was still focused on working towards a win for the team.”

The Bucs came back from a 33-24 deficit late in the second half to beat the Cardinals 40-37 in the final seconds and end Crissinger’s excellent career.

Fairmont head coach Sara Junkermeier said after coaching Crissinger as an assistant and head coach, Junkermeier has seen her work hard and develop her game.

“I’ve coached Taylor since eighth grade through her whole career,” Junkermeier said. “I’ve watched how she’s developed in the program. When she started, we had her at guard and she did a lot of ball control for us and a lot of her shots came from the outside. Then, in the past couple of years as she’s grown, we moved her to more of a center/post position and she worked really hard to be her best in the role. She’s always accepted whatever role we put her in and moving to a completely different role in her last two years was a big thing. She’s been very coachable and always worked hard to perform her best.”

Crissinger said she’s had to grow through struggle and change during her five years on the Fairmont varsity team. She said changing from a guard to a post player helped her all-around game.

“During my junior and senior years I was moved down to the post, but still had the chance to handle the ball and step out to shoot,” Crissinger said. “I think that transition has helped my all-around game because I was able to play any position my coach needed me to.”

Junkermeier said Crissinger is an unselfish player and is always focused on the team winning instead of her stats. She said Crissinger probably could have reached 1,000 points sooner, but she cared more about helping the team.

“I think she’s a very unselfish player,” Junkermeier said. “There were a lot of times she could have scored more, but she always looked for her open teammates and was always more focused on getting the team win than on her own stats. I had no doubt she was going to reach 1,000.

“We talked about (scoring her 1,000th point) early in the year and then I kind of dropped it. I didn’t want to put that pressure on her. When a kid has got that pressure as they get close to a milestone like that, it can make them really play uncharacteristically and I always wanted her to play loose and have fun. As a senior, it’s her last year and I wanted her to have fun and not focus on the numbers.”

This year, Crissinger was co-captains with fellow senior Lexi Lunn, the two were the only seniors on a young team.

“It was a good experience for me,” Crissinger said. “It was a tough transition from having four seniors last year and having Lexi and I as juniors, so we weren’t very young. This year with only us two as seniors and no juniors, we were very young. Those younger girls had a lot of potential coming into the season and they definitely proved that they can play at the varsity level. I learned that they needed leadership so I always tried to be the best leader I could be. I think this season was a good eye opener and I can’t wait to watch the younger girls fulfill their potential in the next few years.”

In her senior season, Crissinger grabbed 218 rebounds for an average of 8.7 per game, while scoring 293 points and leading the team in minutes at 799.

Crissinger said she is excited to continue to grow and develop her game at either the University of Wisconsin-River Falls or Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

“I’m very thankful for all of the support I’ve had from my coaches, teammates, family and friends,” Crissinger said. “I’ve been very lucky to be able to be on a team that is like a family. I’ve made my best friendships through basketball and the memories will last a lifetime.”