Boys Basketball: Brainerd topples Willmar behind Rushin’s 29 points
Brainerd Warriors host Willmar Cardinals Tuesday, Feb. 2
Turnovers were a problem for the Willmar Cardinals Tuesday, Feb. 2.
The Brainerd Warriors used full-court pressure to force Willmar into 16 turnovers and score 16 points off those turnovers en route to an easy 70-36 Central Lakes Conference win at Brainerd High School.
“Anytime you can get those live-ball turnovers that’s a kick-starter for some offense,” Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “We saw that a few of their guards might have some trouble with a little pressure on film. So we just picked our spots and it turned into some offense.”
Brainerd senior captain Griffin Rushin led all scorers, as the only player in double figures, with 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting.
“We were just moving the ball well and hitting shots as a team,” Rushin said. “I just take whatever is open. If I’m open for a 3-pointer, it’s going up. If I can get to the hoop, I get to the hoop.
“I know all the guys around me can score just as well. I know if we need them to step up they will be there.”
Rushin’s 29 points marks the fifth time in six games where the St. John’s University commit has tallied 20 points or more.
“His goal isn’t to come out and score, his goal is to come out and win,” Schoeck said. “He takes what he is given in the flow of the offense and does a good job of capitalizing when he gets his chances.”
Brainerd leaped out to a 29-9 lead in the first half fueled by turnovers and defense.
Sophomore Nick Evanson came off the bench and provided five quick points, while Rushin and Mitchell Degen worked the inside-outside game.
“The urgency in which we came out with, and that we kept it even when we had the lead, was big,” Schoeck said. “The message going into this game was to worry about us and do what we do well. I think the guys did that.”
Leading 36-12 at halftime, Schoeck’s message was to keep attacking and playing the right way.
“Coach wants us to keep going and not let up,” Rushin said.
The Warriors moved from full-court man, to half-court man-to-man, to a half-court zone defense in the second half to keep Willmar on its toes.
“The guys did a good job of going from a man to a zone,” Schoeck said. “I think our legs got a little tired from full-court man and Willmar was getting into the middle a little too easily for my liking, so that was the reason for going to the zone.”
The unselfish Warriors tallied 24 assists while shooting 54% from the field and 41% from 3-point.
“The goal for these guys is to get the best shot we can get,” Schoeck said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s for yourself or for a teammate.”
The win marks the fourth straight for the Warriors after dropping their first two games.
It also marked the second game in a row where the Warriors had a full squad. Last week, prior to a game against Fergus Falls, the Warriors had to sit most of their junior varsity and some varsity players due to COVID-19.
Brainerd will look for a fifth straight win Friday, Feb. 5, against St. Cloud Tech on the road.
“It’s nice to have the whole team and it feels like we are getting some continuity,” Schoeck said. “Guys are getting used to playing with each other and are starting to gel. After these wins, we want to celebrate them for a day, but when we come to practice tomorrow it doesn’t matter what we did yesterday.”
Willmar 12 24 — 36
Brainerd 36 34 — 70
Abdihamid Abdullahi 2, Jacob Rosendahl 7, Cayden Hansen 5, Chase Dirksen 3, Blake Schoolmeester 5, Sam Raitz 7, Ross Minnick 4, Aaron Watland 3. FG 15-52 (29%), FT 2-7 (27%). 3-point 4-20 (20%).
John Pecarich 3, Brandon Johnson 4, Mitchell Degen 9, Logen Roberts 6, Cooper Jacobs 6, Griffin Rushin 29, Nick Evanson 9, Max Lelwica 4. FG 29-54 (54%), FT 3-8 (38%). 3-point 9-22 (41%).
Warriors 70, Willmar 36
Key: Brainerd scored 16 points off turnovers in a blowout win of Willmar.
Conference: Brd 4-2, Wil 3-3.
Overall: Brd 4-2, Wil 3-3.
Next: Brainerd at St. Cloud Tech 7:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.