Boys Basketball: Healthy Kaczor leads Tigers over Warriors
It was just Brainerd's unlucky night.
St. Cloud Tech senior point guard James Kaczor missed the last three weeks with a broken hand and Tuesday was the day his cast was removed.
It was also the day he returned to the floor as he helped lead the Tigers to a 51-47 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Warriors at Brainerd High School.
Kaczor entered the game late in the first half for limited action, but didn't make his presence known until the second half where he scored six of his eight points, but more importantly reduced the Tigers' turnovers from nine in the first half to just two in the second half.
"James is what makes us go," said Tech head coach Mike Trewick. "He got his cast off today so we decided we would let him go in the second half and that's the team we are with James. And we have all seniors and one sophomore so they've been around. They've been here.
"This is an unbelievably tough place to play and anytime you get a win here you're grateful."
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Tech 51, Warriors 47
- Key: Tech forced Brainerd into nine second-half turnovers
- Conf: Brd 4-1, Tech 5-1
- Overall: Brd 5-5, Tech 9-5
- Next: Brainerd hosts Alexandria 7:15 p.m. Friday
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The Tigers' ability to keep possession of the ball helped them turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 40-38 lead midway through the second half. After back-to-back Joey Sauer 3-pointers pushed Brainerd ahead 44-40, Tech pounced with a 10-0 run. Brevyn Spann-Ford scored four of his 10 points in that span and Brady Underwood knocked down an old-fashioned 3-point play for a 50-44 edge.
Owen Davis sank a 3 from the left corner to cut the deficit to three, but Brainerd couldn't tie it despite two good looks.
Tech's Trent Meyer, who finished with a team-high 16 points, hit one of two free throws with 5.5 seconds left for the final score.
"Putting Kaczor in the lineup was the biggest adjustment we can make," Trewick said. "He makes everybody play hard. He's a great leader and he just plays so hard and he defends and that makes everyone else defend. You see him doing it and getting after it and you know that you have to otherwise he's going to hold you accountable."
While Kaczor was a calming force in the second half, Brainerd struggled with nine turnovers during that time. Brainerd shot 6 of 21 from the field, 4-18 from 3-point, in the second half and didn't attempt a free throw.
"We had a whole bunch of good looks," Warriors head coach Scott Stanfield said. "I thought we had wide open 3s. We had some back cuts and we missed some early ones and that hurt us, but once again if you only shoot one free throw you're not going to win."
Sauer led Brainerd with 19 points. The junior scored 11 of Brainerd's 16 second-half points.
"I think Sauer is one of the best players in the league," Trewick said. "He shot really really well. He's a tough guard because he just doesn't make mistakes. He knows where to go. He gets open. We tried to take some chances and he made us pay for the chances that we took."
Early in the first half the forward hit back-to-back 3s to tie the score at 8-8. Then it was a game of ties and lead changes the rest of the half. The teams combined for five lead changes and six ties. Brainerd's largest lead of the first half was three points, until the end when Brandon Burggraff made his only field goal and Chris Karels drained a 3 late for the 31-26 halftime score.
Karles finished with 11 points.
"It's making free throws," Stanfield said. "If we get to the free throw, it changes the game. You can do a lot of things strategically if you're at the free throw line making free throws. You can sub in and out. You can set your defenses and you can do a whole bunch of things.
"I don't think I've ever heard of a team getting one foul called on them in a half—especially all man (defense). We'll have to look at it on tape and see what we can do and go from there."
St. Cloud Tech 26 25—51
Brainerd 31 16—47
ST. CLOUD TECH
Brady Underwood 5, Nate Trewick 3, Brevyn Spann-Ford 10, Kail Lindgren 9, James Kaczor 8, Trent Meyer 16. FG 19-45 (42 percent), FT 6-12 (50 percent). 3-point 5-13 (38 percent).
Ben Staehling 5, Mason Malone 3, Chris Karels 11, Owen Davis 3, Joey Sauer 19, Brandon Burggraff 2, Taylor Shelito 4. FG 18-51 (35 percent), FT 1-1 (100 percent). 3-point 10-34 (29 percent).