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Girls Basketball: Brainerd blows out Bemidji

Brainerd's Olivia Tautges (24) defends against Bemidji's Rumer Flatness Friday, Jan. 11, at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video

Prior to the start of his team's non-conference contest Friday, Jan. 11, Troy Nelson wrote down the words "press breaker" on his marker board.

It worked.

The Brainerd Warriors handled the Bemidji Lumberjacks' press and any extra pressure they tried to produce to post a 77-50 victory at Brainerd High School.

"Early in the season we were really struggling anytime anyone pressed us," Nelson said. "We changed our press break and went to a different one. The kids have been more comfortable in it. We're dribbling when we need to and we're passing when we need to. Being able to make those decisions has helped us stay away from turnovers."

Brainerd was comfortable in all phases Friday. The Warriors shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and opened with a 10-0 run.

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Warriors 77, Bemidji 50

  • Key: Four players reached double figures for Brainerd
  • Overall: Brd 6-8, Bem 8-5
  • Next: Brainerd at Willmar 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12

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After Bemidji finally scored at the 14:40 mark, Brainerd tacked on another 7-0 run and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the first half.

Courtney Russell led the Warriors' first-half offense as she scored 10 of her 16 points in the opening frame. Brainerd was 4-of-8 from the 3-point as well and eight different players found the scoring column.

"I don't think we've ever had a night like that," Russell said. "It felt pretty great."

On the flip side, Bemidji hit just 31 percent from the field and turned the ball over seven times. Brainerd jumped on the extra opportunities to score eight points off those turnovers.

The Lumberjacks' saving grace was second-chance points. Trailing 29-15, Bemidji rattled off a 7-0 run with five of those points coming on offensive putbacks. Russell hit back-to-back baskets to build Brainerd's lead back to a comfortable margin and the Warriors finished the opening half with a 43-31 halftime lead.

"We wanted to focus on our defense mainly for the second half," Russell said. "We wanted to box and hit the boards. It was very important that we handled their pressure. You can't turn the ball over. We ran our press break right."

Brainerd's Ally Brzezinski hit five straight points to start the second half and Brainerd was back to an 18-point edge. Brezinski finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Bemidji answered with a 7-0 run, but Brainerd responded. Grace Zimmerman scored six of her eight points in the second half. Myah Nelson scored nine of her team-high 17 points in the second half. She added five assists.

Lilly Horn finished with 10 points

"They're very unselfish," Nelson said. "I think early in the season we were trying to find our own way and some of them thought my own way was I have to create my own shot. But they've grown together and started trusting each other and the ball movement has been really great.

"We had five in double figures last game and four tonight with another with eight points. The last few games they've just played so well together."

Russell added four assists and six rebounds to her 16-point performance. She scored six during a 10-2 run that gave Brainerd a 69-44 edge and the win in hand.

"She is such a great leader," Nelson said. "She takes control. She attacks when they need her to. She pulls it out when we need her to. She is a great teammate. She is always encouraging and talking the kids through our stuff. She's a four-year varsity player and you can't beat that."

Friday's win is the third-straight for the Warriors, who run into one of their toughest stretches of the season with Willmar Saturday and Class 1A's top-ranked Alexandria Thursday.

"Our confidence is starting to get better, that's for sure," Russell said. "Especially with a night like tonight that will help a lot."

For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2CrqhAL.

Bemidji 31 19—50

Brainerd 43 34—77

BEMIDJI

Emily Wade 2, Emma Neubeck 3, Ashley Hofstad 2, Katie Alto 14, Jody Pemberton `, Taylor Wade 2, Lindsey Hildenbrand 4, Rumer Flatness 12, Macy Flatness 8, Rebecca Matheney 2. FG 17-64 (26.6 percent), FT 11-17 (64.7 percent). 3-point 5-25 (20 percent).

BRAINERD

Courtney Russell 15, Lilly Horn 10, Autumn Miles 4, Myah Nelson 17, Meghan Smith 4, Ally Brezinski 12, Olivia Tautges 6, Grace Zimmerman 8. FG 30-57 (52.6 percent), FT 11-12 (91.7 percent). 3-point 6-17 (35.3 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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