Boys Basketball: Defense ignites Otters past Warriors
Fergus Falls 70, Warriors 57 Key: Otters forced 12 first-half turnovers Conf: Brd 6-8, FF 11-2 Overall: Brd 8-13, FF 17-3 Next: Brainerd at Rogers 7:15 p.m. Friday With a stifling defense, the Fergus Falls Otters looked poised for a repeat trip t...
Fergus Falls 70, Warriors 57
Key: Otters forced 12 first-half turnovers
Conf: Brd 6-8, FF 11-2
Overall: Brd 8-13, FF 17-3
Next: Brainerd at Rogers 7:15 p.m. Friday
With a stifling defense, the Fergus Falls Otters looked poised for a repeat trip to the Class 3A state championship game Thursday.
The Otters forced the Brainerd Warriors into 12 first-half turnovers and used those to build a 40-33 halftime edge leading to a 70-56 Central Lakes Conference victory at Brainerd High School.
"We started against Brainerd at our place a couple of weeks ago, we kind of figured out who we wanted to be and it came on the defensive end," said Fergus head coach Matt Johnson. "We applied pressure and we were flying around. We're not really different across the board. We're small and pretty quick. We're able to switch a lot of things and create some havoc and try to make teams make tough decisions in chaos."
Fergus scored 10 points off Brainerd turnovers and watched senior guard Elijah Colbeck drain four 3-pointers to finish with 16-first half points.
"When they put their defense on you, they put it on you," said Warriors head coach Scott Stanfield. "You can't tell their guys apart unless you get close. They're all about 6-foot, 6-1, strong, fairly athletic kids. They get into you and speed you up to the point where you rush some shots, especially underneath when you know you have to get it off quick.
"They're very good. They're 3A runners-up and I expect them to go back again this year, although Alexandria has beaten them twice and I would have liked to have seen how they did it."
Brainerd shot 50 percent from the field and 64-percent from 3-point in the opening frame, but attempted nine fewer shots because of the turnovers. Brandon Burggraff scored eight of his 11 points in the first with Ben Staehling, Michael Russell and Michael Bieganek each scoring six first-half points.
Brainerd used a 9-0 run thanks to three straight 3-pointers from Russell, Joey Sauer and Burggraff to tie the score at 18 at 6:55, but then Colbeck outscored Brainerd 12-6 himself to build the Otters' lead back up to 34-24 late in the half.
"When you're hitting shots defense seems to come a little easier," said Johnson. "That was important to stretching our lead a little bit. When you hit those shots and stretch that gap, the other team has to work a little quicker to get a shot and a little more rushed.
"Elijah hitting those 3s was big. He's been shooting terrific. He's been on a tear right now. It's been fun to see."
Brainerd cut into the Otters' lead with back-to-back Bieganek baskets, but a 9-0 Fergus run pushed the Otters' lead to 49-37. Another 10-0 run minutes later handed Fergus a 59-40 advantage.
Colbeck finished with a game-high 25 points. Matthew Monke added 12 followed by Harrison Christensen's 11 and Spencer Breen's 10 to push Fergus to 17-3 overall, 11-2 in the conference.
It was the fifth straight win for Fergus, which started the streak Jan. 30 against Brainerd.
"I thought our kids handled themselves way better than we did at their place," Stanfield said. "We did a lot of good things. We just missed some shots underneath and at crucial times where we could have really cut into their lead. And they don't miss many.
"They have a lot of weapons and they do good stuff. They're just a little bit better than we are right now. It's fun playing good teams to see where you measure up. We'll have another good one tomorrow. Rogers is every bit as good as this team."
Bieganek led Brainerd with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Russell and Burggraff each scored 11, with Russell adding eight assists. Brainerd's hot first-half shooting cooled to a 36.8 percent for the game.
Fergus Falls 40 30-70
Brainerd 33 23-56
Matthew Johnson 4, Nathan Rund 5, Harrison Christensen 11, Spencer Breen 10, Andrew Christenson 3, Elijah Colbeck 25, Matthew Monke 12. FG 26-48 (54 percent), FT 9-13 (69 percent). 3-point 9-20 (45 percent).
Michael Russell 11, Chris Karels 2, Joey Sauer 11, Brandon Burggraff 11, Michael Bieganek 12, Tanner Lundberg 3, Max Zimmerman 2, Ben Staehling 6. FG 21-57 (36.8 percent), FT 3-5 (60 percent). 3-point 11-26 (42 percent).