Boys Basketball: Warriors' D suffocates Apollo
Scott Stanfield used to be a police officer.
Now he coaches basketball.
What the Brainerd Warriors’ head coach should have been is a salesman, because his players are buying into what he’s selling.
Stanfield deployed a relentless blitzkrieg against the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles Tuesday night at Brainerd High School. The result was a 67-28 Central Lakes Conference defensive clinic against the conference’s second-place team.
The Warriors’ zealous pressure held Apollo to nine second-half points. The Eagles shot 20 percent from the field (9-of-45) and committed 19 turnovers, which Brainerd turned into 18 points.
“The kids are buying into what we’re doing on defense, especially our man defense,” said Stanfield. “Then we switch up with a little bit of match-up zone and they are getting their rotations down better every game.
“Our ball pressure has always been good. Now we can even step it up a little more and play smarter on the defensive end. When we do that, we’ll be OK.”
The Warriors weren’t perfect as they committed 15 turnovers and shot just 9-of-18 from the foul line. Brainerd’s unselfish offense, however, helped nine different players score. Jack Sauer’s 15 points led the offensive assault followed by 12 points from Chris Bowman and 10 from Jacob Blong. It was Bowman’s quick eight points in the first half that helped Brainerd gain a 21-12 edge with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
Then Sauer and Ian Haug, who finished with six points, began their long-range bombardment, draining three straight 3-pointers pushing the Warriors to a 36-19 halftime lead.
“We’ve been having trouble coming out hot and we just wanted to put the screws to them right away,” said Bowman. “We didn’t do it as nearly as bad as we wanted to, but after a few shots, we got into our groove.”
Brainerd cruised out of the halftime break outscoring Apollo 18-2, including a 12-0 run to secure 54-22 edge. Five different players scored during that time, led by Blong’s six points. Marcus Comstock finished with eight points and Connor Bowman came off the bench to score seven for the 10-0 Warriors.
Brett Maslonkowski led Apollo with 15 points, 11 of those came in the game’s first six minutes to keep Apollo close. He then missed his next 12 shots before connecting on back-to-back field goals in the second half.
Brainerd’s defense held Apollo to 4-of-21 shooting. The Eagles were 0-2 from the line and 1-5 from 3-point in the second half.
“When teams are rested before they play us, they seem to hang with us, but as that game goes on, and we can go 12 players deep, you can see the change,” said Stanfield. “Kids tend to wear out on the other team and they are sick of having a guy in their face.
“That’s what really helps us is our depth. We’re going to continue to build on that depth and hopefully get to the point where we are playing 14 guys and go five in and five off or get a rotation down and just mix and match it.”
The Warriors outscored Apollo 13-2 to close out the game and improved to 5-0 in the conference. Brainerd holds a two-game advantage over the rest of the conference — a conference Brainerd hasn’t won since the 1992-93 season.
“It’s incredible,” said Bowman of the season so far. “It’s the best experience I’ve ever been a part of. We’re just going to keep doing our thing. We’re not going to worry about the records we need to break. We’re just going to worry about playing basketball.”
St. Cloud Apollo 19 9 — 28
Brainerd 36 31 — 67
Luke Stangler 5, Brett Maslonkowski 15, Ethan Novacinski 5, Trevor Tesch 2, Jack Atkinson 1. FG 9-45 (20 percent), FT 8-16 (50 percent). 3-point 2-13 (15 percent).
Tony Sauer 5, Jack Sauer 15, Connor Bowman 7, Jacob Blong 10, Marcus Comstock 8, Ian Haug 6, Chris Bowman 12, Jagar Hanson 2, DJ Kraemer 2. FG 25-57 (44 percent), FT 9-18 (50 percent). 3-point 7-21 (33 percent).