Boys Basketball: 4 Warrior seniors go out on high note

Warriors 75, Sauk Rapids 56 Key: Warriors held the Storm to 33 percent shooting Conf: Brd 8-8, SR 6-10 Overall: Brd 11-15, SR 12-14 Next: Brainerd in Section 8-4A playoffs TBA Tuesday Cody Christensen got mauled twice Friday. Corbin Pikula made a...

Warriors 75, Sauk Rapids 56

Key: Warriors held the Storm to 33 percent shooting

Conf: Brd 8-8, SR 6-10

Overall: Brd 11-15, SR 12-14

Next: Brainerd in Section 8-4A playoffs TBA Tuesday


Cody Christensen got mauled twice Friday.

Corbin Pikula made a free throw at Brainerd High School.

Michael Bieganek battled foul trouble most of the Central Lakes Conference clash with Sauk Rapids, but still grabbed six rebounds.

And Michael Russell was hot and cold, but still finished with a game-high 22 points to lead the Brainerd Warriors to a 77-56 victory in the regular-season finale.

Combined, however, the four seniors helped a young Warriors team gain valuable experience, identify an identity and led Brainerd to an 8-8 conference record.

"They've always believed in me and always had confidence in me to keep shooting the ball when I'm missing," said freshman guard Ben Staehling, who finished with six points and helped spark a 5-0 first-half run that handed Brainerd a 25-16 edge.

"We're going to miss them a ton," said Chris Karels. "It's unexplainable. They mean the most to me. They're great role models and they're just everything to me. They're our team and my family."

Karels finished with 18 points. He drained three 3-pointers in the first half helping Brainerd to a 35-30 halftime lead. After Russell's 11-point explosion in the second half forced Sauk Rapids to adjust its defense toward him, Karels sank three more 3-pointers to push Brainerd's lead to 67-53 late.


"Michael Russell is a really hard worker," Staehling said. "He's always told me to be confident. He's always believed in me more than anyone else."

Fellow guard Karels said of his backcourt mate: "From Russell, I've learned to be confident and just play your own game," Karels said. "And not back down."

With Bieganek battling foul trouble, junior Taylor Shelito stepped in and finished with eight points. He may have used some of the moves he learned from his fellow post man.

"I learned so much from Mike (Bieganek)," said Shelito. "I learned how to pump fake a ton and use all different kinds of post moves and how to get strong down low. How to rebound aggressively.

"I'll probably miss their team leadership the most."

Bieganek finished with eight points, six in the second half, as the Warriors shot 43 percent in the second half and 42 percent for the game.

The Warriors' defense held the Storm to 34 percent shooting and caused five second-half turnovers, which they turned into five points. Brainerd also collected seven second-chance points.

The extra effort may have rubbed off from the two unsung senior leaders.


"Cody helped us out in practice a ton and when he came into the game he knew what to do and he was always a great role model," said sophomore Joey Sauer. "Corbin same thing. He loved taking charges, too, but he was a great guy to hang around with."

Brainerd finishes the season 11-15 and will be the No. 6 seed in the Section 8-4A playoffs. They could play St. Cloud Tech or Rogers depending on how the Quality Results Formula finalizes the standings.

But Friday was all about the seniors.

"Let's start with Cody Christensen and Corbin Pikula, the kids that people don't see every night on the court," Warriors head coach Scott Stanfield said. "I get to see them every night in practice. To see what they do behind the scenes is incredible. Those two kids are really high-character kids with a lot of integrity. They knew what their role was. They taught our young kids through practices and on their own helping to make their teammates better and they welcomed them."

The last month of the regular season no one has improved more than Bieganek, who was named Central Lakes Conference Player of the Week last week.

"He's been really a dominating force," said Stanfield. "He never quit working and he's just a pleasure to be around. He's a great kid and he's going to be a really successful person with whatever he does."

Russell, a three-year starter, added six rebounds, five assists and two steals to his totals Friday.

"Through the ups and downs, Michael has never batted an eye or complained," Stanfield said. "He worked hard to get better and stronger every year that he's been with us. He is just the nicest kid in the world. He came out in the second half and I always worry about taking him out of the game because you might miss that explosion of points. Well he had that in the second half tonight where he looked unstoppable. Michael's future is bright wherever he plays next year. He's going to be really missed by us."


Sauk Rapids 30 26-56

Brainerd 35 40-75


Nathan Waldorf 7, Tyler Kranz 17, Braden Tretter 5, Deng Deang 8, Cody Landwehr 12, Anthony Massman 8. FG 22-65 (33 percent), FT 8-14 (57 percent). 3-point 4-23 (17.4 percent).


Michael Russell 22, Chris Karels 18, Joey Sauer 3, Brandon Burggraff 4, Michael Bieganek 8, Tanner Lundberg 3, Taylor Shelito 8, Ben Staehling 6, Mason Malone 2, Corbin Pikula 1. FG 25-60 (43 percent), FT 13-19 (68.4 percent). 3-point 12-30 (40 percent).

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