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Brainerd Warrior Regan McElfresh shoots Tuesday against the St. Cloud Tech Tigers at Brainerd High School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video2 / 2

Full speed—that's the only speed the Brainerd Warriors know.

And it didn't take them long to get up to speed Tuesday at Brainerd High School as they forced the St. Cloud Tech Tigers into 24 first-half turnovers leading to a 67-31 Central Lakes Conference victory.

The Warriors' chaotic tempo helped Brainerd score 27 points off of Tech turnovers in the first half alone. Three times Brainerd went on 12-0 runs pushing toward a 44-13 halftime edge.

Trailing 5-2, the last time Brainerd trailed, the Warriors rattled of a 12-0 run that featured five different players scoring. After a Tech basket, Brainerd resumed its breakneck pace with another 12-0 run. Lillee Hardee scored all seven of her first-half points in the spurt and senior center Maddi Barnett got an old-fashioned 3-point play.

"That's what we want this year to be like," Warriors head coach Troy Nelson said. "I would say that's probably the best we've done it all year long. We were eight deep to start and all eight were all over the floor and came out causing turnovers. Then we were 13 deep by the end of the game and all those kids came in and did their job."

Brainerd allowed two Tech free throws before kicking the pace back into overdrive for its third and final 12-0 run. Regan McElfresh, who led the Warriors with 12 first-half points, highlighted the third spurt with back-to-back buckets. Ashley Huber concluded the first-half scoring with two free throws as she finished with nine points in the opening frame.

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Warriors 67, St. Cloud Tech 31

  • Key: Brainerd forced 35 Tech turnovers
  • Conf: Brd 3-1, SCT 1-3
  • Overall: Brd 5-3, SCT 2-6
  • Next: Brainerd at Cambridge 7:15 p.m. Friday

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"We knew Tech has a lot of decent posts, but their ball handlers aren't as good as other section teams," said Huber. "So we knew pressure defense was the key. We needed to make turnovers because our best offense is fastbreaks. We were just trying to force turnovers."

Lexi Roby finished with seven points, five assists and three steals and Cara Helgeson added for points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors.

"As we're sitting on the bench looking out we just said, 'This looks exactly how we want it to look,'" Nelson said. "We were trapping from the right spots. We were rotating from the right spots. We spent quite a bit of time working on that stuff and it was exciting to come out and see the girls do that today."

Holding a 21-point edge to open the second half, Brainerd slowed the pace and worked on its half-court offense. After shooting 50-percent in the first half, Brainerd maintained a shooting percentage of 49.1.

Brainerd did struggle at the line going 10-for-24, but forced 11 more turnovers in the second half to keep Tech from cutting into its deficit.

Tech's Emma Marek scored seven straight points to make it 52-22 and from there it was all Brainerd.

"Turnovers has always made us pumped," Huber said. "We're a team that likes fast-paced. We aren't very good at slowing things down and playing against zone. When we do have an opportunity to fastbreak, it kind of gets everybody pumped up and we all play defense better after that.

"In the second half, we didn't full-court press because we were up so much, but we still need to remember to play hard and try to get those turnovers."

McElfresh finished with 15 points and seven steals and Hardee tallied 13 points.

Grace Zimmerman collected the heads-up play of the game. The sophomore forward was fouled on a made basket and received one free throw. She missed the freebie, but after the miss nobody attempted to rebound the ball and it bounced to the ground untouched.

Zimmerman noticed no whistle blew, ran down the lane, scooped up the ball and made the put back for the final score.

It's the second-straight Section 8-4A victory for Brainerd and improves its conference record to 3-1.

"This was very important," Nelson said. "We need all the section wins we can get. This was a double whammy in that we got a conference and a section win. We're tied for second in the conference still. Willmar is the only undefeated team left so it was really important."

St. Cloud Tech 13 18—31

Brainerd 44 23—67


Makena Lindgren 4, Cami Koshiol 2, Genaya Murray 9, Emma Marek 10, Rachael Kaczor 2, Kate Martig 2, Emma Borchert 2. FG 12-44 (27.3 percent), FT 6-13 (46.2 percent). 3-point 1-9 (11.1 percent).


Lillee Hardee 13, Ashley Huber 9, Lexi Roby 7, Cara Helgeson 4, Regan McElfresh 15, Maddi Barnett 4, Ellie Peabody 5, Grace Zimmerman 6, Allyson Brzezinski 4. FG 27-55 (percent), FT 10-24 (41.7 percent). 3-point 3-14 (21.4 percent).

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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