With comfort comes consistency and then success for Erika Lane and the Brainerd Warriors girls basketball team.
The transfer student from Pequot Lakes said it wasn’t hard to learn the systems Brainerd employs. The part that took the longest was weaving her game into those systems and working with her new teammates to see what fit best.
“I think this summer, when I went and did summer league with them, I think that really helped me a lot,” Lane said. “I really started to gel with them a lot more. I think that really helped at the start of the season. And the open gyms that we’ve had really helped as well as just to get to know everybody and gel with them as players.
“Learning the chemistry of the other players was probably the hardest part. It was different. I had to get used to playing with people that I had never played with before.”
Lane’s offensive production helped the Warriors put together a successful stretch of games in the second half of the season.
Lane scored 17 points in the Warriors road win Feb. 6 at Willmar. She called it her career highlight so far.
She followed with 16 points in a 49-44 victory over Grand Rapids Feb. 10. A night later she dropped 14 points on Rocori to help the Warriors to a 64-37 victory.
In Brainerd’s only loss this month, a 56-52 loss to Class 3A’s 10th-ranked Alexandria Feb. 13, Lane scored 16 points. Her 15 points led Brainerd in a 54-33 win over Chisago Lakes Tuesday, Feb. 18.
“Last week, all three games she came out and hit shots early, which really got our team going,” Warrior head coach Troy Nelson said. “She scored in double digits in all three first halves so it got our offense going. It gave us confidence that we would be OK on the offensive end. The best part is I can’t think of one shot in that stretch that was forced. They all came within the offense, which has really helped her shoot the ball better. She’s finding her flow in our offense and taking what the defense gives her.
“When she was hitting her shots early it took the pressure off of our other scorers. In the second half, when the teams tried to take Erika away, it opened up shots for our other kids in the second half.”
Brainerd has won six out of its last seven games, with consistent offense and an impressive defensive effort. Lane said she’s finally comfortable in Brainerd’s zone defense and understands the different nuances better.
“It was different at first because I was used to playing man defense more,” Lane said. “We’ve started doing that a lot more this year and that works really good. I think our team has done really well with the man defense. The zone was definitely different to get used to, but I’ve played the zones they do. In a way, I knew how to do it, but they did have different ways of how they did the zone. I have gotten acclimated to it now.”
In Brainerd’s first 23 games, Lane has scored 243 points for a 10.6 points-per-game average. She’s added 113 rebounds. She is second on the team in both of those categories.
She’s added 26 deflections, 34 steals and 29 assists to go with 38.3% field goal percentage, 34.6% from 3-point and 60.5% from the line.
Nelson said Lane’s outside shot has improved as she’s worked it within the offensive system. But he loves her mid-range game the most.
“She has a really nice outside shot and her 3-point shots, she’s not forcing them,” Nelson said. “She’s letting them come through inside-outs and coming off screens. She has a great mid-range game. Her 12-to-15 range game is really good. A lot of shots she shoots from there are not great for other kids, but for her, that’s kind of where she is really good and she knocks down those 15-footers quite often.”
Lane said she knows the mid-range game in basketball is dying with more players and coaching philosophies focusing on 3-point shots and penetration. But she still enjoys working on it. And like her two older sisters, Vanessa and Olivia, Lane is no stranger to hard work. That is why Nelson believes Lane has been welcomed by her new teammates.
“She’s an extremely hard worker,” Nelson said. “Monday night we got done with practice a little early and I went into the locker room and got changed and came back and she was still in the gym getting shots up. She is constantly working on her game. She gives us 100% effort every day and I think that’s one of the reasons she’s fit in so well.”
“Her attitude and effort are consistently there. She is extremely coachable. She asks the right questions when things aren’t going well. During a game, she’ll ask about making adjustments. That’s really hard for high school kids to do. She’s done a really good job of trying to take everything we’re trying to do and get good at it so she can fit in with what we’re doing and make an impact.”
Other notable performances
Ben Staehling, boys basketball, finished with 23 points against Rocori and 27 against Sartell.
Kadyn Robinson, floor hockey, scored three goals and assisted on three goals against Robbinsdale.
Matt Allord, floor hockey, scored three goals and assisted on three goals against Robbinsdale.
Brandon Neifert, Alpine skiing, finished 18th at the state meet to earn All-State honors.
Lauren Kalenberg, Alpine skiing, finished 19th at the state meet to earn All-State honors.
Abby Thompson, floor hockey, scored five goals and assisted on two others against Maple Grove.
Cadence Atwater, floor hockey, scored four goals and assisted on three others against Maple Grove.
Izzy Olson, gymnastics, placed third in the Section 8-2A all-around to advance to state.
Brenna Deason, gymnastics, placed second on floor and fifth on vault in Section 8-2A meet to advance to state.
Career highlight: Brainerd’s road win at Willmar Feb. 6
Grade-point average: 3.87
Favorite class: Math
Favorite food: Boneless wings
Favorite movie: “Space Jam”
Favorite TV show: “The Office”
Favorite website or app: Snapchat
Favorite restaurant: Jimmy John’s
Future plans: Play college basketball and continue academic career
Favorite athlete: LeBron James
Parents: Chuck and Trish Lane