BOYS BASKETBALL: Warriors battle back to remain unbeaten
LITTLE FALLS — With each game it becomes harder.
Marcus Comstock knows it and he knows each game the Brainerd Warriors go into with a zero in the loss column the harder it will be to leave with that same number.
The Warriors saw it first hand Thursday night. The Little Falls Flyers came out and made their first seven field goal attempts for an 18-11 advantage. Brainerd didn’t fluster and used a 14-0 run to end the first half, then turned that into a 75-59 non-conference victory to improve to 8-0.
“We were expecting that,” said Comstock. “We knew that they wanted to beat us. We were 7-0 and we knew they really wanted to knock us off bad. So we knew they would come out with energy.
“We also knew they didn’t start their normal starters and so when they got into the game they would be going for it. We knew if we could weather that beginning storm we could come back and get to them.”
According to Brainerd Dispatch and Brainonian yearbook records, this is the first time Brainerd has been 8-0 since the 1965-66 season when it started 10-0.
While the Flyers weren’t missing, Brainerd wasn’t making anything to start. The Warriors shot just 2-of-13 from 3-point and just 38 percent from the field in the first half.
It wasn’t until they bombarded the inside when things started rolling. Jacob Blong scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half and all but four free throws and one 3-pointer came in the paint. Comstock added six of his 18 during that time. Chris Bowman scored all four of his points during Brainerd’s 11-6 run to climb within 24-22 of the Flyers.
“We had a different starting five tonight compared to what we usually have and I was really pleased with those five guys,” said Flyers head coach Kevin Jordan. “They were the hardest-working five guys for us on Tuesday night. They went out there tonight and set the stage for everyone else to follow.
“Then there was a timeout in the first half where I thought the momentum changed and Brainerd got more aggressive on the boards. Blong and Comstock made sure they got second and third chances and Brainerd started going hard to the hole.
“Brainerd is a good basketball team and they can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
After two Collin Eckman free throws, Brainerd rattled off 14 straight points to secure a 36-28 halftime lead.
“We got back into the game once we started working the ball in (to the paint) more,” Comstock said. “Once we started doing that, they had to start collapsing defensively and then we could start kicking it out for some 3s and that makes the inside-out game work a lot easier.
“We definitely had some confidence going into the second half. Once we got out of that hole we just kept going. Then when we got into the second half we could just keep getting after it.”
Comstock scored 12 points in the second half and Ian Haug scored 10 of his 14 points during that time. Jack Sauer also finished with 18 points, with 12 coming in the second half, as the Warriors shot 50 percent from the field and were 16-of-21 from the line to keep Little Falls at a sizable deficit.
“Defensively, we were in the right frame of mind and we were doing a good job,” Jordan said. “Then we started losing confidence on offense and it affected our defense. Basically, we were guarding personnel and trying to take away the paint. Our guys were doing a good job and then we just lost the confidence.”
Eckman, who led Little Falls with 18 points, scored 11 in the second half. A field goal by him, a free throw from Jake Scott, who added 14 points, and a steal and lay-in by Travis Spillum, helped Little Falls cut into Brainerd’s lead at 61-52, but four straight Comstock free throws stopped the Flyers run. Brainerd then scored 14 of the last 21 points to remain unbeaten.
“It’s going to keep getting harder because teams are going to want to knock us off,” said Comstock. “Everyone is going to want to be the one to stop our streak. So we just have to keep playing hard.”
Little Falls 28 31 — 59
Brainerd 36 39 — 75
Troy Scott 3, Sebastian Sowada 10, Jake Scott 14, Collin Eckman 18, Bryce Zawatzke 8, Travis Spillum 6. FG 21-51 (41 percent), FT 8-12 (67 percent). 3-point 8-21 (38 percent).
Tony Sauer 4, Jack Sauer 18, Jacob Blong 17, Marcus Comstock 18, Ian Haug 14, Chris Bowman 4. FG 20-47 (43 percent), FT 28-37 (76 percent). 3-point 6-23 (26 percent).