Boys Basketball: Russell reaches milestone in Warrior win
Warriors 66, Willmar 59 Key: Brainerd hit 14-of-18 free throws in second half Conf: Brd 2-3, W 1-4 Overall: Brd 3-6, W 6-4 Next: Brainerd at Moorhead 5 p.m. Saturday It was celebrated Thursday, but it may have already happened last week. Michael ...
Warriors 66, Willmar 59
Key: Brainerd hit 14-of-18 free throws in second half
Conf: Brd 2-3, W 1-4
Overall: Brd 3-6, W 6-4
Next: Brainerd at Moorhead 5 p.m. Saturday
It was celebrated Thursday, but it may have already happened last week.
Michael Russell became the 11th Brainerd Warrior boy to surpass 1,000 career points during a Dec. 29 loss to Elk River.
The milestone wasn't celebrated until Thursday, after Russell sank a 3-pointer in the Warriors' 66-59 Central Lakes Conference victory over Willmar at Brainerd High School.
The senior guard finished with a team-high 22 points to land him at 1,028 career points.
"I'm not sure, I wasn't keeping track," said Russell. "This means a lot either way. I've been in this program since I was a freshman. It's been a long haul.
"The shot felt good. It was a 3 and we were down so we needed it. It gave us some momentum to get back into the game."
The four-year varsity player joins Chris Bjorklund (1,718), Kyle Crocker (1,438), Jim Smith (1,376), Randy Fabel (1,337), Jon Emerson (1,318), Landon Stanfield (1,196), Kobe Ahonen (1,184), Jack Sauer (1,069), John Anderson (1,068) and Todd Vanek (1,044) on Brainerd's list of 1,000-point scorers.
"He started out as a ninth-grader and he got a few minutes," said Brainerd head coach Scott Stanfield. "Sophomore year he played a lot and started some games. We knew he would be in that 10- to 12-point a game average. Then the progression to a junior we expected 16 to 18 points and he did. This year he's going to be around that 20- to 22-point range.
"You can just see it in kids. He was no exception to that. I think he had one of his better games. He didn't try to do too much and let the game come to him."
The delayed celebration was made sweeter by the fact the Warriors snapped a four-game losing streak with the win. Brainerd hit 14-of-18 free throws in the second half to pull away from a 54-54 tie. Brandon Burggraff knocked in 15 points. The junior was 6-of-6 from the line and finished 3-of-7 from the field, with all three made shots coming from behind the arc.
Burggraff's last two free throws gave Brainerd a 55-54 lead. Russell then drained a 3-pointer followed by free throws from Chris Karels and Max Zimmerman. Karels, Zimmerman and Mike Bieganek all finished with seven points.
"Mike Bieganek is an active player," Stanfield said. "He controlled the inside pretty well for us. He did have the height advantage and I thought he played smarter as far as not being overly aggressive and getting fouls. He's just snake-bitten around the hoop. Some shots that he normally makes aren't going in, but the thing I liked about Michael tonight was his defense stood alone and his rebounding really stood out."
A Zimmerman lay-in and free throw and two more free throws sealed Brainerd's third victory.
"I thought Brandon had his best game by far," said Stanfield. "He can shoot the ball. If you give him a little space, he can really knock it down. It was nice to see him hit a couple of nice 3s. We knew (Russell) would be around that 20-point mark so we needed another kid in double figures and Brandon did that."
The first half featured six ties and eight lead changes. Bieganek scored six of his points in the opening frame, four of which came off of offensive rebounds. The big center secured 14 rebounds as the Warriors outrebounded Willmar 43-31.
"Mike (Bieganek) worked hard," said Russell. "We played zone quite a bit so he was down low there and he was one of the few guys actually boxing out. We needed that."
The Cardinals, who shot 43 percent from the field were, led by junior guard Noah Slagter, who finished with 24 points. Noah Streed scored nine and Dalton Rambow scored six-all in the second half.
Russell scored 10 points in the opening frame. He opened with a quick 2-pointer and then after a slight delay drained a 3 to stop the game. He added six assists and four rebounds.
Russell entered Thursday with 174 points (21.8 per game) this season to put him at 1,006.
Last season, Russell finished with 472 points (16.9 per game). As a sophomore he tallied 350 points (12.9 per game) and as a freshman snuck in 10 points.
"I hope we can take this win and get a couple of more," Russell said. "We need to get a little streak going."
Willmar 26 33-59
Brainerd 29 37-66
Noah Streed 9, Donald Jurek 4, Noah Slagter 24, Ty Roelofs 6, Noah Getz 2, Cameron Murphy 3, Dalton Rambow 6, Jacob Minnick 3, Drey Dirksen 2. FG 23-53 (43.4 percent), FT 6-10 (60 percent). 3-point 7-18 (38.9 percent).
Ben Staehling 2, Michael Russell 22, Chris Karels 7, Joey Sauer 6, Brandon Burggraff 15, Max Zimmerman 7, Michael Bieganek 7 . FG 19-57 (33.3 percent), FT 16-23 (69.6 percent). 3-point 12-31 (38.7 percent).