Trailing 22-21 late in the first half, the Brainerd Warriors flipped a switch.
It resulted in a 13-0 run, which the Warriors carried to a 69-55 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Sauk Rapids Storm Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Brainerd High School.
Senior Owen Davis said it was all about defensive pressure when Warrior head coach Charlie Schoeck called time out with about seven minutes remaining in the first half.
“We really preach ball pressure in practice,” Davis said. “Ball pressure and then good help defense. It helped us get a lot of turnovers and it worked out well for us tonight.”
Brainerd forced the Storm into nine first-half turnovers, which it converted into 10 points. It was a Davis bucket off a Storm turnover that ignited Brainerd’s run. Four different Warriors scored in the stretch, including Max Lelwica and Nate Staehling off the bench. Brainerd got eight bench points compared to two for the Storm.
“We called timeout there and we just said, ‘OK. Somebody has to run away with this thing. Let’s take the reigns and do it,’” Schoeck said. “Defensive pressure keyed it. We wanted to step up the ball pressure to make it tough on their guys to find the shooters like they were earlier in the game. That’s what we focused on.”
Davis finished with a game-high 23 points followed by Ben Staehling’s 17 points and Griffin Rushin’s 15.
“Everybody sees how big of an impact Owen can have on a game,” Schoeck said. “Tonight was huge. He did a great job of being in good position and making the smart plays. When he’s on the floor he’s going to make a big difference for us and he did tonight.”
Davis fouled out of Brainerd’s last game against St. Cloud Apollo. He was whistled for just three fouls Tuesday.
The senior forward scored Brainerd’s first five points of the second half. The Warriors shot 14-24 from the field, including 4-7 from 3-point and held the Storm to 12-of-26 shooting. Sauk Rapids was forced into seven more turnovers in the second half.
Brainerd built a 52-36 lead before the Storm answered with a 9-2 run to cut the lead to nine, but a Davis basket handed the momentum back to Brainerd, which outscored the Storm 15-10 down the stretch.
“Our focus coming into the game was to concentrate on what we do really well,” Schoeck said. “That’s our motion offense and getting cutters moving through the lane and sharing the basketball. We were finding the open guy and we weren’t pressing the issue so much. Our guys were playing selfless and doing what they had to do to get their teammates open by cutting and keeping floor space.”
The first half saw four early lead changes and a tie before the Warriors finally took over. Sauk Rapids owned a 16-11 lead before Connor Powers drained his only points of the first half followed by a Rushin 3 and a Davis 3 for a 19-16 lead.
Ben Staehling and Davis added five rebounds each. Cam Engholm led the Warriors with seven boards as Brainerd outrebounded Sauk Rapids 29-22. Engholm and Powers led the Warriors with four assists each.
The Storm answered with consecutive baskets from Joshua Schloe, who led Sauk Rapids with 22 points. Ethan Opsahl added 16 points and Kobe Lee scored 12 points for the Storm, which was 3-0 entering Tuesday’s game.
“This was a hard game,” Davis said. “They’re a good team for sure. Schloe is a big guy in the paint and then they have Kobe outside shooting the 3. It’s a good combination for them, but I think we defended them well tonight.”
Tuesday was Brainerd’s first win after starting the season 0-2. Davis said the win was critical.
“It’s good,” Davis said. “This was a good win and it’s going to lead us into many more hopefully.”
For more photos of the game between the Warriors and the Storm go to https://bit.ly/2RGc8IQ.
Brainerd 34 35 -- 69
Sauk Rapids 24 31 -- 55
Kobe Lee 12, Ethan Opsahl 16, Landry Seaman 1, Carter Loesch 2, Alex Harren 2, Joshua Schloe 22. FG 20-48 (42%), FT 7-9 (78%). 3-point 8-25 (32%).
Ben Staehling 17, Griffin Rushin 15, Owen Davis 23, Nate Staehling 2, Max Lelwica 6, Connor Powers 4, Camron Engholm 2. FG 27-52 (52%), FT 7-7 (100%). 3-point 8-24 (33%).
Warriors 69, Sauk Rapids 55
Key: Warriors went on a 13-0 run near the end of the half
Conf: Brd 1-1, SR 2-1
Overall: Brd 1-2, SR 3-1
Next: Brainerd at Fergus Falls 7:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13