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Girls Basketball: Brainerd girls hoping to run opponents off court

Kylee Heurung is the Brainerd lakes area's premier scorer. The two-year varsity player finished second in the area with 513 points for a 19.7 points-per-game average. But the Brainerd junior will need to do even more this season to help a young W...

Brainerd Warrior Emma Larson practices with her teammates last week at Brainerd High School. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)
Brainerd Warrior Emma Larson practices with her teammates last week at Brainerd High School. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)

Kylee Heurung is the Brainerd lakes area's premier scorer.

The two-year varsity player finished second in the area with 513 points for a 19.7 points-per-game average.

But the Brainerd junior will need to do even more this season to help a young Warrior roster get ready for playoffs.

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Brainerd Warriors

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Head coach: Troy Nelson, third season

2014-15 record: 14-12 overall, 11-5 CLC

Career record: 23-30 (.434)

Returning starters: Kylee Heurung, Ashley Huber

Assistant coaches: Dylan Knipple, Greg Gearey, Wade Haapajoki

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"She's a great scorer," said Brainerd head coach Troy Nelson. "That's what she does, but she's a good defender. We had our jamboree on Saturday and she was crashing the boards and rebounding and doing all the little things we need her to do to be a good team this year."

Heurung was second on the team last year and fourth in the area with 203 rebounds for a 7.8 average. She added 33 assists, 36 steals and 11 blocked shots.

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As a sophomore she shot 40.5 percent from the field and 77.6 percent from the line, which was second best in the area.

Heurung's backcourt partner Ashley Huber also returns. The sophomore tallied 107 points (4.5 per game) to go with 42 rebounds, 45 assists and 13 blocked shots.

"Ashley has had a pretty good couple of weeks," Nelson said. "Last year we didn't ask her to play the point much, but this year she'll be playing it a little bit more. We had Jenna (Degen) last year so Ashley didn't have to play the point very much. We're trying to get her to push the tempo.

"Her shot has really improved and she's getting better defensively, I think. We need her to rebound a little bit better, but she's working at that, too."

After Heurung and Huber, the Warriors will battle rookie inexperience and youth. Brainerd graduated eight players from last year's squad that finished 14-12 overall. Senior Maddy Stall scored three points in nine varsity games. Senior Emma Larson played in six varsity games last season.

"Maddy Stall and Emma Larson, who are captains along with Kylee, they've been really good at being vocal leaders and encouraging the team. They've both worked really hard and we're hoping to find some roles for them to be successful," Nelson said.

Anna Hague rounds out the seniors. She'll start the season playing junior varsity, but will be needed to provide depth in the fast-paced Warrior attack.

Junior guard Hanna Degen is the only other player returning with varsity experience. She played in nine varsity games and scored five points.

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"Hanna had a great offseason," said Nelson. "She put in a lot of work and has become quite a bit faster. You can see her confidence has skyrocketed. We'll look to her to play some really good defense for us and she has a nice shot from the outside."

Juniors Mykala Griffin and Katie Jobe are two of the taller Warriors. Griffin stands 5-foot-9 with Jobe at 5-10. Both will be asked to play key roles in the paint for a short Brainerd lineup.

"We're going to try to push tempo," said Nelson. "We have good depth, I believe, so we're going to try and tire people out. We're going to push tempo on offense and try to push the tempo on defense when we can."

Richelle Bjork joins sophomores Lexi Roby, Cara Helgeson, Regan McElfresh and Lilee Hardee to provide that depth and athleticism.

"They've had a great first two weeks," said Nelson. "Their energy, hard work and effort has been nice. We're looking for great contributions from them."

Sophomores Ellie Harting and Maddison Barnett will be key components for the junior varsity, but will provide even more depth on the varsity along with freshman Courtney Russell.

Nelson realizes with such a large roster turnover it will take time for the team to become a cohesive unit. He's not worried about Tuesday night's season opener at Moorhead. He's focused on February. Luckily for Brainerd six of its eight late-season games will be home.

"We've talked about the season as a process and we're not going to be the best team we can possibly be tomorrow," Nelson said. "That's not our goal. Our process is to continue to get better and improve our depth so we can wear people out and to push so when we get into the playoffs we're ready to go."

Nelson believes despite Brainerd's youth it can compete for a Central Lakes Conference title. He sees his team as being in the top tier with Alexandria and Willmar. Section 8-4A is stacked with top 10 talent in Elk River, St. Michael-Albertville and Maple Grove.

"We need to continue to get better defensively," Nelson said. "We're going to do things a little differently because of our lack of size than we have in the last couple of years. We'll learn our rotation on our zones and being confident. We need to anticipate passes so we can get some steals and get into our running game.

"We're going to have to have all five players on the floor buy into rebounding. If not, we're going to struggle cleaning up the boards, but on Saturday (at the jamboree) they started to jell as a group and it looked like they were having fun as a group."

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Warriors roster

Seniors: Anna Hague (forward), C-Maddy Stall (guard), C-Emma Larson (forward)

Juniors: Hanna Degen (guard), Mykala Griffin (forward), Richelle Bjork (guard), Katie Jobe (forward), C-Kylee Heurung (guard)

Sophomores: Ellie Harting (guard), Ashley Huber (guard), Lexi Roby (guard), Cara Helgeson (forward), Regan McElfresh (forward), Lilee Hardee (forward), Maddison Barnett (center)

Freshman: Courtney Russell (guard)

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Warriors schedule

Dec. 1, at Moorhead, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3, vs. Little Falls, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8, at Fergus Falls, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10, vs. Rocori, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 11, at Rogers, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 15, vs. Sartell, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 18, vs. Grand Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 22, at St. Cloud Tech, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 31, at Cambridge, 3 p.m.

Jan. 7, at Alexandria, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 8, vs. Moorhead, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 11, vs. Willmar, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 15, at Sauk Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 16, at St. Cloud Apollo, 2:30 p.m.

Jan. 19, at Bemidji, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21, vs. Fergus Falls, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26, vs. Rocori at Cold Spring, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 29, at Sartell, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 2, vs. St. Francis, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 4, at Buffalo, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 9, vs. St. Cloud Tech, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 11, vs. Monticello, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 12, vs. Alexandria, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 19, at Willmar, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 22, vs. Sauk Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 26, vs. St. Cloud Apollo, 7:30 p.m.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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