Boys Basketball: Warriors improving as playoffs approach
Warriors 79, Moorhead 58 The key: Michael Russell, Brandon Burggraff and Michael Bieganek combined to score 62 points Overall: Brd 10-14, M 3-20 Next: Brainerd at Bemidji 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. After surviving a rugged stretch of eight losses in 11 g...
Warriors 79, Moorhead 58
The key: Michael Russell, Brandon Burggraff and Michael Bieganek combined to score 62 points
Overall: Brd 10-14, M 3-20
Next: Brainerd at Bemidji 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
After surviving a rugged stretch of eight losses in 11 games against teams with a combined 104 wins, the Brainerd Warriors appear to have found their stride.
In the last six games, the Warriors have registered four victories, including Friday's 79-58 pasting of the Moorhead Spuds. Brainerd received 32 points from Michael Russell, 16 from Brandon Burggraff and 14 from Michael Bieganek on its way to its 10th victory.
"I just think the ball's going in the basket better than it has been most of the year," Warriors coach Scott Stanfield said. "I think our schedule early was very tough. The last six games prior to this we played Fergus Falls twice, St. Cloud Tech, then you throw in a really good Rogers team, an Alexandria team, a Rocori team-those are all really good teams.
"We fought through it. We picked up a couple wins through that stretch. You could see us getting better. It was just a matter of can we keep pressing through the toughest part of our schedule to get to teams we're more evenly matched with.
"We're getting used to playing together. When we started out, we had eight or nine guys who had never been on the court together before this year. We're really coming together."
Bieganek said the team is finding its rhythm with two games left in the regular season.
"We've been playing great as a team, making the extra pass to the open guy," Bieganek said. "We've been hitting our shots, taking our time, not rushing anything and it's been working out great.
"Our passing was great. We saw the open guy and it worked because everyone was scoring. That's what we have to keep doing if we want to win the next two games and carry that into the playoffs and hopefully we'll go far there, too."
Russell had a breakout first half, scoring 25 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the field and 5-for-5 marksmanship at the foul line. He was 6 of 8 from three in the first half.
"Michael Russell is probably playing the best he's ever played for us the last five or six games," Stanfield said. "He's letting the game dictate what he's going to do and he's finding his teammates."
Burggraff and Bieganek gave the Warriors a boost inside and outside during a game that featured 39 fouls. Burggraff was 6-for-8 from the floor and scored 12 points in the second half. He opened the second half with back-to-back threes that pushed Brainerd to a 49-33 edge.
Bieganek finished 6-for-11 from the field and pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds. He scored 10 in the first half.
"When we get our inside game clicking a little bit, with our outside kids, who can shoot, we're really good," Stanfield said. "We're missing Joey Sauer (with an injury). His replacement we go from 6-3, 6-4 to Tanner Lundberg who's about 5-7, 5-8. We had a tough matchup for Tanner because the Moorhead kids are all 6-3. They went with a little different lineup probably for that reason. We had a tough time matching up with their length, not their physical size. Tanner had to guard a 6-3 guy, which is a tough assignment for him, but he fought through it."
The Warriors, who led 43-33 at the half, shot 45 percent from the field (25 of 56). Moorhead, which shot 52 percent in the first, sank only six of 15 shots in the second and finished 18-for-48 (38 percent). The loss was the Spuds' seventh straight.
Brainerd ends the regular season at Bemidji Tuesday and at home next Friday against Sauk Rapids.
"It's fun to be playing better this time of year than being hot in the beginning of the year and then tailing off," Stanfield said. "If we're on our game, I think we can play and beat anybody. I'm looking forward to that first round (of the section tournament). The way it's shaping up we might have Rogers."
Maleeck Harden was the only Spud in double figures with 20 points.
Moorhead 33 25-58
Brainerd 43 36-79
Noah Melton 4, Brennan Meyer 2, Drew Hagen 7, Logan Garcia 6, Eli Larson 9, Maleeck Harden 20, Ben Nelson 5, Joey Dispirito 2, Mohammed Kareem 3. FG 18-48 (38 percent). FT 19-29 (66 percent). 3-point 3-19 (16 percent). Turnovers: 15.
Michael Russell 32, Chris Karels 3, Brandon Burggraff 16, Michael Bieganek 14, Taylor Shelito 5, Corbin Pikula 5, Cody Christensen 2, Connor Powers 2. FG 25-56 (45 percent). FT 17-26 (65 percent). 3-point 12-31 (39 percent). Turnovers: 12.