Boys Basketball: Flyers ground Warriors' offense for win
Little Falls 54, Brainerd 44 Key: Little Falls was 17-21 from foul line in second half Overall: Brd 12-14, LF 16-10 Next: Brainerd in Section 8-4A playoffs Tuesday TBA; Little Falls in Section 8-3A playoffs Tuesday TBA Little Falls head coach Kev...
Little Falls 54, Brainerd 44
Key: Little Falls was 17-21 from foul line in second half
Overall: Brd 12-14, LF 16-10
Next: Brainerd in Section 8-4A playoffs Tuesday TBA; Little Falls in Section 8-3A playoffs Tuesday TBA
Little Falls head coach Kevin Jordan said a zone defense looks better when the other team's shots don't fall.
The Flyers' zone looked very good Friday as it held the Brainerd Warriors to 36-percent shooting from the field, including 9-of-29 from 3-point, leading to a 54-44 non-conference victory at Brainerd High School.
"We couldn't shoot," said Warriors head coach Scott Stanfield. "We didn't make shots and that's the bottom line. We were way too passive and for whatever reason our shooters didn't shoot over the zone or weren't ready to shoot.
"A lot of it was having to play three games in four days. It was obvious to me, we were just a little tired, especially on defense. They spread us out and held the ball for long periods of time and that fatigued us more. To their credit that's what you're supposed to do. We played poorly and didn't deserve to win."
The Flyers hit 17-of-19 free throws in the game's final four minutes to seal the victory. Thomas Bell scored all eight of his points from the line in those final minutes as Brainerd fouled early.
The Warriors tied the contest 29-29 with 7:19 remaining, but Little Falls erupted for an 11-2 run thanks to the physical Bryce Zawatzke. The 6-foot-2 senior muscled his way to 13 second-half points and tallied seven straight in the run to finish with 15 for the game. He added 14 rebounds.
From there Bell and the rest of the Flyers' free throw shooters took over. The Flyers finished 19-of-27 from the line for the game, but missed just two in the final four minutes. Riley Loukinen and Kyle Kabanuk both finished with eight points for the 16-10 Flyers. Little Falls didn't attempt a field goal the after Zawatzke's last basket near the six-minute mark.
"I thought our guys did a good job of taking away the gaps and making them shoot the ball from the perimeter," said Jordan. "We've had a couple of games where we've been able to stay in the zone and then the other team hits shots and you have to get out of it. But I thought our guys did a good job of rotating quick and contesting their shooters. Then we did a good job of rebounding."
The Flyers outrebounded Brainerd 36-19.
Little Falls opened the second half with a 7-2 spurt to build a 25-16 lead. Kobe Ahonen sparked Brainerd's comeback as the junior post scored 10-second half points to finish with a game-high 19. Ahonen didn't miss a shot, but the Warriors struggled getting him the ball in the paint.
"The biggest thing was we didn't want him getting catches down low," Jordan said. "I felt if we could contest his perimeter shots just like everyone else's we would be fine, but if he gets the ball down low to the rim we were in trouble. We played a lot of zone because they can attack the basket. I thought we were fortunate that we were able to stay in the zone because they are a very athletic ballclub and when you play them man they can get to the rim in a hurry."
Brainerd didn't get to the rim nor did the Warriors get to the line. The Warriors attempted two free throws the entire game.
The Flyers, who have won five of their last six, were coming off their worst offensive performance of the season as St. Cloud Cathedral held them to 32 in a loss Thursday.
"This has kind of been our team down the stretch," Jordan said. "We have to be a patient ballclub and get good shots every possession. Against Cathedral we kind of lost focus and attacked without really passing the ball. It's a great feeling coming out of that Cathedral game to do the things that are important for this team to be successful."
It looked like a low-scoring affair for both teams in the first half as Little Falls held an 18-14 edge at the half. Ahonen led the Warriors with nine points and Jacob Russell scored Brainerd's five other points.
Steven Severson tallied six points, on two second-half 3-pointers, for Brainerd, which saw its four-game win streak snapped right before Section 8-4A playoffs. A victory would have helped Brainerd finish the regular season at .500, but instead it falls to 12-14.
"We're fine," Stanfield said. "We're in good shape. On our stretch run we played very well. We talked about this game as coaches at the beginning of the week that it was going to be the toughest one of the week. We had to play three games and we couldn't prepare for this one. Little Falls had time off and prepared and the advantage was clearly on their side."
Little Falls 18 36 - 54
Brainerd 14 30 - 44
Riley Loukinen 8, Kyle Kabanuk 8, Kyler Erdman 4, Thomas Bell 8, Benjamin Witt 3, John Lukasavitz 3, Bryce Zawatzke 15, Thomas Kornbaum 5. FG 15-36 (41.7 percent), FT 19-27 (70.4 percent). 3-point 5-11 (45.5 percent).
Michael Russell 3, Logan Madsen 3, Jack Geraets 5, Jacob Russell 5, Steven Severson 6, Hunter Casper 3, Kobe Ahonen 19. FG 17-47 (36.2 percent), FT 1-2 (50 percent). 3-point 9-29 (31.0 percent).
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .