Boys Basketball: Free throws bail out Warriors
Things looked well in hand for the Brainerd Warriors Thursday night at Brainerd High School.
Until a 17-4 St. Cloud Apollo run tied the Central Lakes Conference game at 51-51 with 2:14 remaining. Brainerd hit seven of 12 free throws down the stretch to hold on for a 58-55 win.
Junior point guard Logan Madsen hit two free throws, Logan McElfresh hit two, Isaiah Smith hit two and sophomore Kobe Ahonen hit one to improve to 7-6 overall.
“The first half I thought we flew around pretty good,” said Brainerd head coach Scott Stanfield. “And in the second half, too, until we hit a little bump. They cut the lead and then we became pretty tentative on offense. Everybody who knows me knows that’s not me. I like us to keep attacking and let the chips fall where they may.
“We missed some easy shots and that tightened us up even more. When they tied it up, I thought our kids kept their composure.”
The Warriors held a 31-19 lead at the half and built it to 45-29 before Apollo’s Noel Teigen found his range. The Eagles’ guard scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including 12 from 3-point range.
“Apollo’s two post players were awful active and awful good tonight,” said Stanfield. “And then the Teigen kid comes in and hits four or five 3s in the second half and we didn’t close out hard enough on him. He usually doesn’t hit four. He’ll hit one or two, but I thought we played well.”
Apollo forced nine Warrior turnovers in the second half and turned those into eight points and got 10 second-chance points from post players Ethan Novacinski, who finished with nine, and Jeremy Koffi, who tallied a game-high 21.
“Our defense wasn’t the way we played earlier,” said Brainerd senior Grant Reuer. “They were hitting shots, too. We just had to do what we do in practice. We tried to run our offense. We needed to stay as composed as possible.”
The Warriors shot just 5-of-15 from the field in the second half compared to 13-of-32 in the opening frame. Brainerd was 15-of-24 from the foul line, however, and 2-of-3 from 3-point in the second half. Smith, who led the Warriors with 17 points, hit one of those 3s as did Reuer, who added eight points.
Nick Schwen scored 14 points, but fouled out with 3:01 remaining,
“We knew that if we could just settle down we would be OK,” said Stanfield. “We challenged Kobe Ahonen and I thought the last three minutes, when Nick was out, he played really well.
“Our point guard Logan is very good. Nothing rattles him. He had an unfortunate turnover at half court, but what does he do? He goes down and gets a steal at the other end, gets fouled and makes two free throws.”
Teigen’s final 3 cut the score to 57-55 with 6.1 seconds left, but Smith hit the final free throw and Apollo’s final attempt, a solid look from Wes McDonell, sailed long.
The Warriors improved to 5-2 in the conference and snapped the Eagles’ four-game winning streak.
“Sometimes it’s better to win a game like this than winning a game by 20 or 30 points because there was a lot of teaching in our huddles,” said Stanfield. “Our kids took hold of that and I thought they did some good things that they needed to do down the stretch.”
Apollo 19 36 — 55
Brainerd 31 27 — 58
ST. CLOUD APOLLO
Cole Johnson 4, Wes McDonell 3, Noel Teigen 14, Ethan Novacinski 9, Jeremy Koffi 21, Jack Atkinson 4. FG 20-51 (39 percent), FT 8-16 (50 percent). 3-point 6-20 (30 percent).
DJ Kraemer 6, Logan McElfresh 1, Grant Reuer 8, Logan Madsen 7, Isaiah Smith 17, Nick Schwen 14, Kobe Ahonen 4. FG 18-47 (38 percent), FT 16-27 (59 percent). 3-point 6-16 (38 percent).