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Boys Basketball: Warriors battle for tough section win

Warriors 63, Moorhead 45 Key: Michael Russell led all scorers with 25 points Overall: Brd 17-4, Moor 2-17 Next: hosts Sartell 7:30 p.m. Thursday It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. After back-to-back losses, the Brainerd Warriors returned to thei...

Warriors 63, Moorhead 45

Key: Michael Russell led all scorers with 25 points

Overall: Brd 17-4, Moor 2-17

Next: hosts Sartell 7:30 p.m. Thursday

It wasn't pretty, but it was a win.

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After back-to-back losses, the Brainerd Warriors returned to their winning ways with Tuesday's 63-45 Section 8-4A victory over the Moorhead Spuds at Brainerd High School.

Brainerd slugged its way to the win despite shooting just 35.3 percent from the field and 61.3 percent from the line.

Defense was the key as the Warriors held Moorhead to 27.3 percent shooting from the field. Brainerd outrebounded the Spuds 47-35 with Kobe Ahonen grabbing 11 and Michael Russell securing nine to go with a game-high 25 points.

"It's always nice to get a win against Moorhead," said Warriors head coach Scott Stanfield. "They're a 4A opponent with some athletic kids. It was ugly-partly on our part and partly with the way the game was called. Sometimes you just have to wallow through the mire. It was just awful trying to get into any kind of flow on either side of the court. It was frustrating for the kids. We held our poise for the most part and came away as a better team that way."

Brainerd built an 18-5 lead thanks to a 13-0 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Luke West, Russell and Ahonen. But Moorhead used a 9-0 run to cut it to 18-12. A 3-pointer and a layup by Russell stopped the spurt. Russell scored 14 first-half points. Ahonen scored seven of his nine in the first half.

Brainerd held Moorhead to 6-of-27 shooting (22 percent) in the first half and went into halftime with a 31-19 edge thanks to a 5-0 run to close the half.

"We just started talking on defense," said Warriors forward Chris Pederson. "When we talk on defense we play way better. We went with the same game plan in the second half. We just needed to keep talking on defense."

Brainerd only forced Moorhead into nine turnovers, but the Warriors committed just seven of their own. Jack Geraets, who was tagged with guarding Spuds' top scorer Matt Bye, added five steals and four blocks to go with two assists, four rebounds and 10 points.

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"Jack Geraets played Bye as well as anybody," Stanfield said. "He's about 6-foot-3, but with his wing span and the length he has he's like a 6-5 kid guarding perimeter guys. He's a very intelligent player on defense. He's kind of been that kid that we put on the other team's top offensive player."

Moorhead roared out of the second half with a 9-2 run to climb to 33-28, but Brainerd answered with a 15-3 run to pull away and the Spuds never threatened again. Pederson scored nine of his 12 points in the second half, including five in the big run. Pederson also grabbed five rebounds, two assists and a block.

Moorhead was led by Bye, who finished with a tough 22 points as he shot just 7-of-27 from the field. Leif Engen added seven points for the Spuds.

"I thought our defense was pretty good all night on Bye," Stanfield said. "He had to shoot a lot of contested shots. He was forcing some shots. I thought we played really good defense on their big kid Engen. We had enough pressure on the ball where their other shooters couldn't get a shot off.

"We just concentrated on getting stops. We tried to pound the ball inside, but we missed a lot of layups. Then when we did get fouled we missed free throws. This should have been an 80-point game for us."

Brainerd completed the season sweep of the Spuds and handed Moorhead its 13th straight loss. Brainerd beat the Spuds 76-70 Dec. 17.

"We knew they've been struggling this year, but they're a dangerous team with good players," said Pederson. "We just had to come out early and play like it was any other game.

"We need to get on this run at the end of the season and carry it into sections."

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Moorhead 19 26 - 45

Brainerd 31 32 - 63

MOORHEAD

Alend Alemadi 6, Cole Crompton 2, Matt Jenkins 2, Matt Bye 22, Brennan Meyer 6, Leif Engen 7. FG 15-55 (27.3 percent), FT 8-15 (53.3 percent). 3-point 7-21 (33.3 percent).

BRAINERD

Luke West 3, Michael Russell 25, Jack Geraets 10, Chris Pederson 12, Kobe Ahonen 9, Jaden Miller 2, Michael Bieganek 2. FG 18-51 (35.3 percent), FT 19-31 (61.3 percent). 3-point 8-21 (38.1 percent).

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

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