Boys Basketball: Brainerd captures sixth straight win
A Brainerd Warrior team that many may have overlooked can
no longer be taken lightly.
The Warriors parlayed precise free throw shooting and tight defense into a 46-43 Central Lakes Conference win Friday night at Brainerd High School.
It was Brainerd’s sixth win in a row and fortified its grip on second place in the CLC with an 8-2 mark.
“We’re trying to build a program that kind of plays against the standard, not so much against the opponent, but the standard of what we want to do,” Warriors coach Scott Stanfield said. “This team slowly is becoming very fun to coach. They’re resilient. They just work and somehow find a way.”
The win was also Brainerd’s third straight at home with two more home games Monday against Willmar and Tuesday against Moorhead.
“We play well at home,” Stanfield said. “I told the kids we’re 28-4 now (at home) let’s get to 29 wins over the last three years (at home). That’s quite a record. I don’t know if people understand how hard that is to do.”
Sartell led just twice — in the game’s first minute — and with 51.2 seconds remaining when Brandon Snoberger’s 3-point play gave the Sabres a 43-42 edge.
Brainerd’s Kobe Ahonen, who finished with 10 points, sank two foul shots with 40.1 seconds to give Brainerd a 44-43 lead.
“I was just thinking about the next play. I wasn’t thinking about (the free throws),” Ahonen said. “I was just in the moment.”
Sartell called timeout with 32.6 seconds left, and worked the ball to Kyle Och, but his 3-pointer hit the rim.
Brainerd’s Grant Reuer was fouled with 7.7 seconds to go and he drained both free throws. After a timeout, the Sabres rushed the ball down the floor, but Tom Bearson’s three was off the iron and time expired.
Brainerd finished 18 of 21 (86 percent) at the foul line.
“I was happy for Grant making those two free throws. That kind of sealed the win for us,” Stanfield said. “Sophomore Kobe Ahonen, after he turned the ball over, responded and made two free throws. Nick (Schwen) was good at the line.
“All in all, it was just a great team win. I think every kid that went in tonight — we played a lot of kids again — did their part. That’s really how you build a good unit.”
Isaiah Smith led Brainerd with 11 points and seven rebounds. Schwen added nine points.
Tom Bearson scored 13 and Brandon Snoberger nine for Sartell.
The Warriors won despite shooting just 26 percent from the field (12 of 47) and committing 19 turnovers. Much of that inaccuracy was due to Sartell’s size — Sabres’ starters ranged from 6-foot-2 to 6-7.
“They are so big inside that we couldn’t finish over them,” Stanfield said. “That was tough. They’re tough on every team they play like that because of their size so teams don’t finish well underneath. If you don’t finish well underneath then you’ve got to shoot well from outside and we were so-so from outside.
Defense was the Warriors’ answer. They limited Sartell to 34 percent (17 of 50) from the floor.
“I thought our defense was pretty good again,” Stanfield said. “If we play defense like that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
In the first half, the Warriors made just 7 of 30 shots and committed nine turnovers but made 7 of 8 free throws. Brainerd put together a 5-point run for a 16-11 edge and finished the half with a 7-point run and a 23-16 lead.
Also in the first, the Warriors limited Sartell to six baskets in 24 attempts and forced nine turnovers.
“They’re a handful to play against, they have been for years for us,” Stanfield said. “A lot of our games with them end up like this, in the 40s or 50s. I don’t know why that is. They beat us by three there (49-46 Dec. 10), we beat them by three here, by similar scores. We’re pretty equal teams.”
Sartell 16 27 — 43
Brainerd 23 23 — 46
Tom Bearson 13, Tyler Tillotson 7, Brandon Snoberger 9, Kevin Wolfe 6, Kyle Och 8. FG 17-50 (34 percent). FT 4-6. 3-point: 5-22. Turnovers: 18.
Grant Reuer 2, Logan Madsen 4, Isaiah Smith 11, Nick Schwen 9, Kobe Ahonen 10, DJ Kraemer 5, Jacob Russell 3, Hunter Casper 2. FG 12-47 (26 percent). FT 18-21 (86 percent). 3-point: 4-15. Turnovers: 19.