Boys Basketball: Late rally by Fergus Falls stuns Warriors

Brainerd's Nate Staehling goes up for a basket against Fegus Falls Thursday, Feb. 6, at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Leading 69-63 with under a minute to play, the Warriors looked well on their way to a Central Lakes Conference victory over the Fergus Falls Otters.

However, when Dominic Aguliar nailed a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, it left the Warriors stunned as they fell 70-69 Thursday, Feb. 6, at Brainerd High School.

Nate Staehling hit one-of-two free throws to put Brainerd up 69-63. After a missed 3-pointer by Fergus Falls, Cody Norgren scored the offensive rebound to make it 69-65.

The Otters then stole the inbounding pass and missed three straight 3-pointers before Ethan Olson, who led the Otters with 19 points, scored a putback to make it 69-67 with six second remaining.

With four seconds left, Connor Powers, who led Brainerd with 19 points, went to the foul line to try and ice the game.


He missed both and Aguliar grabbed the rebound and fired up a jumper from just inside halfcourt to complete the comeback win for Fergus Falls.

“The last play there, Dominic had a nice heads up play there where he got downhill and he knew he had four seconds,” Fergus Falls head coach Matt Johnson said. “I thought he used the time very well. It was a contested look, but when it left his hand it looked good.”

Brainerd head coach Charlie Schoeck faced a dejected Warriors locker room after the loss.

“It’s tough and we got to play the game for the whole 36 minutes,” Schoeck said. “We did a lot of good things in that game so we don’t want to hang our heads on it because we did a lot of things we can build on. You just have to learn from that stuff.”

After going into halftime up 34-30, Brainerd opened the second half on fire from 3-point range.

Owen Davis sank two 3s in a row, followed by a Powers 3-pointer. Ben Staehling nailed Brainerd’s fourth 3 of the second half before Fergus Falls called timeout with the Warriors up 48-35.

“I think it’s safe to say we stole one,” Johnson said. “Brainerd outplayed us for three quarters of the game, and our guys did a good job of responding to adversity. Things weren’t going well and I thought defensively we played with better energy. It’s just fun to see kids respond when the chips are down and respond.”

The Warriors shot 12-for-25 from 3-point range and forced the Otters 6-foot-11 center Chance Fazio off the floor because he did not come out and guard Davis.


“In the first game, we played against those guys and then in the film we’ve seen and the scouts we’ve looked at, he did not want to come up and guard the perimeter,” Schoeck said of the gameplan against Fazio. “We have the luxury to have some big guys who can shoot it and it was basically that simple. They had no choice, but to take him out if they were going to play man-to-man.”

Fazio still finished with 15 points despite not playing many minutes in the second half. Johnson also said Fazio was dealing with some sickness which was another reason he saw less time in the second half.

Brainerd led by as many as 15 before Fergus Falls started its comeback. With nine minutes remaining and Brainerd up 56-46, Johnson got hit with a technical foul that seemed to fire up his team.

“We try to defend our kids a little bit and sometimes certain guys take that a certain way,” Johnson said. “I thought our kids responded to it. We fight for them and we want them to get a fair shake. I thought they did a good job of refocusing and dialing in.”

Fergus Falls went on a 15-5 run, highlighted by an Aguliar layup off a turnover, to cut Brainerd’s lead to 62-61.

After an offensive rebound by Davis and kickout 3-pointer by Griffin Rushin to put Brainerd up 67-61, it seemed like the Warriors held the Otters off long enough.

In the first half, Fergus Falls jumped out to 22-13 lead early before four 3-pointers in a row, with Powers nailing two of them, gave the Warriors the lead.

Brainerd missed five of its last eight free throws in the final two minutes.


Brainerd was 11-for-21 from the free throw line and Fergus Falls was 5-for-13.

The Warriors also committed 11 second-half turnovers which led to eight points for the Otters. Brainerd also let Fergus Falls grab 10 offensive rebounds in the second half, which led to 11 second-chance points.

Davis finished with 16 points and six rebounds. Ben Staehling scored 14 points. The hero, Aguilar, finished with 13 for the Otters.

“We don’t have much time to sulk because we go down to play Wayzata tomorrow,” Schoeck said. “The beauty of high school basketball is everyone makes the playoffs and everyone has the same shot during playoff season. So all we are focused on is getting better every game and hopefully peaking in three weeks.”

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Fergus Falls 30 40 -- 70
Brainerd 34 35 -- 69

Chance Fazio 15, Brock Kotschevar 4, Cody Borgren 10, Abel Aho 3, Parker Jacobs 2, Luke Newman 4, Ethan Olson 19, Dominic Aguilar 13. FG 28-58 (48%), FT 5-13 (38%). 3-point 9-19 (47%).


Ben Staehling 14, Griffin Rushin 7, Owen Davis 16, Nate Staehling 3, Max Lelwica 5, Connor Powers 19, Camron Engholm 2, Mitchell Degren 3. FG 23-43 (54%), FT 11-21 (52%). 3-point 12-25 (48%).

Fergus Falls 70, Warriors 69

Key: Dominic Aguillar hit a 35-footer at the buzzer to win the game for the Otters.

Conference: Brd 6-6, FF 9-2.

Overall: Brd 7-12, FF 16-4.

Next: Brainerd at Wayzata 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7.


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