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Boys Basketball: Brainerd outruns Willmar to an easy victory

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Brainerd's Conner Powers dunks the ball against Willmar Friday, Jan. 23, at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd boys basketball blew the game open early and never looked back.

Up by as many as 30 points in the first half, the Warriors cruised to a 73-41 win over the Willmar Cardinals in a Central Lakes Conference game Thursday, Jan. 23, at Brainerd High School.

Conner Powers stole the ball in the backcourt and went in for a right-handed slam dunk to put Brainerd up 7-0.

“Dunks give a lot of energy to the team even on the bench,” Powers said.

After a Griffin Rushin 3-pointer, Willmar called timeout down 16-2. Brainerd already had forced Willmar into five turnovers.

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“Coach talked to us about having a big win this week and a big confidence booster,” Powers said. “That’s what our mindset was coming into this game. We were thinking about D-ing up and that’s actually what we did.”

Brainerd’s first possession out of the timeout featured Owen Davis slamming home an alley-oop pass from Powers. The Warriors started the game on a 26-2 run after a Davis three-point play.

“Right away I did not know if it was going to execute,” Davis said of the alley-oop. “I thought I was going to miss, but Conner threw a good pass and I got it down. It was a lot of fun. Griffin had a good screen up top and it was a great play.”

It was the defense of Brainerd which fueled the run. Willmar struggled shooting starting the game 1-for-9. At half, the Cardinals shot 23% from the field, while Brainerd shot 48%.

“One thing we noticed on film, they struggled when they faced pressure in the past games we scouted,” Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “We know what our strengths are in getting out and running and using our athleticism. We wanted to be the aggressors right out of the gate.

“The defense creates a lot of good offense for us and that’s where we want to start with it. In the half-court, we made a conscious effort to set good-hard screens, you know, just basketball fundamentals.”

Willmar went into halftime trailing 42-16 and cut the lead down to 20 before Brainerd went on a 10-0 run to push the lead to 30.

Powers led all scorers with 18 points. He was 6-for-12 from the field with two 3-pointers and three dunks. Powers also led the team in assists with four.

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“His shooting is much improved over last year,” Schoeck said of Powers. “You can just tell when he gets a square base and a clean look he feels really confident right now.”

Nate Staehling started for the Warriors and scored 14 points with three 3-pointers and 5-for-6 shooting.

Owen Davis finished with 11 points and nine rebounds highlighted by the alley-oop dunk in the first half.

“The athleticism of Powers and Davis when we can get them in full-court pressure and in the passing lanes it creates a lot of problems,” Schoeck said.

The win puts Brainerd on a three-game winning streak and Willmar dropped its sixth game in a row.

The Warriors finished the game shooting 56% from the field while holding Willmar to 30%. Brainerd also dominated on the boards outrebounding the Cardinals 41-26.

Brainerd will have a quick turnaround Friday, Jan. 24, as they host Alexandria and hope to keep the same energy and defensive intensity they brought against Willmar.

“We need to keep that energy up,” Davis said. “Shock them a little bit. We need to have a good gameplan going into tomorrow and come out with a win two home (games) in a row.”

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Schoeck's message to the team on the back-to-back is similar.

“I just told them your mind is a powerful thing,” Schoeck said. “If you believe in positive things and seeing positive things happen then positives will happen. We just hope to carry that momentum into tomorrow and playing our game and playing hard we will be fine.”

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

Willmar 16 25 -- 41
Brainerd 42 31 -- 73

WILLMAR
Hunter Magnuson 2, Will Hisken 3, Jacob Rosendahl 4, Jack Jeffords 8, Chase Dirksen 7, Alex Schramm 2, Andrew Baumgart 4, Samuel Fraser 8, Sam Raitz 3. FG 16-53 (30%), FT 4-7 (57%). 3-point 5-22 (23%).

BRAINERD
Ben Staehling 8, Presley Severson 3, Griffin Rushin 7, Owen Davis 11, Nate Staehling 14, Connor Powers 18, Camron Engholm 10, Mitchell Degren 2. FG 29-52 (56%), FT 8-13 (62%). 3-point 7-19 (37%).

Warriors 73, Willmar 41

Key: 26-2 run to start the game propelled Brainerd to an easy win

Conference: Brd 4-3, W 2-6.

Overall: Brd 5-8, W 4-12.

Next: hosts Alexandria 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24.

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