Girls Basketball: Otters ramp up defense to shutdown Warriors

Brainerd Warrior Grace Zimmerman prepares to pass the ball past Fergus Falls Otter Carlie Meis Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Brainerd High School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

With his team trailing 20-8 with 4:31 remaining in the first half, Fergus Falls head coach Bruce Strand called a timeout.

It was all Otters after that.

Fergus closed out the half with a 15-0 run and went on to defeat the Brainerd Warriors 53-34 Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Brainerd High School.

Strand said it was a combination of calming the offense and ramping up the defense.

“Defense was part of it, but we wanted to settle the girls down a little bit because we couldn’t make a shot,” Strand said. “We were getting shots. We weren’t turning the ball over, but we were tight. It didn’t help when Paige Pearson picked up her third foul early, early in the game. I think our kids were reeling with that and the fact we had another starter who didn’t even dress. I just thought we were reeling a little bit and we talked about picking each other up.


“The change, though, was the defensive intensity. I thought our girls really turned it up.”

In the Otters’ 15-0 run to close out the half, 12 points came off Warrior turnovers. Sophomore Tori Ratz, who led all scorers with 28, kicked off the run with one of her seven 3-pointers. Sabrina Fronning hit back-to-back buckets and Carlie Meis, who got the start for the injured Ellie Colbeck, finished with five points in the run, including a 3-pointer that handed the Otters a 25-20 halftime lead.

“Carlie Meis, a senior, stepped up huge tonight,” Strand said. “She played all kinds of minutes and hits that 3 right before half. Then Sabrina Fronning, can we talk about how quick her hands are and how quick her feet are? She just does so many things for us.

“I knew the scoring had to be spread out a little bit and I think the main one was Carllie Meis. She gave us a spark.”

Brainerd dominated most of the first half. An Olivia Tautges 3-point play ignited a 9-0 Warrior run to start the game. Myah Nelson led the Warriors with six first-half points, including a 3-pointer that gave the Warriors a 12-1 edge. The point guard didn’t attempt a shot in the second half.

It was a Tautges bucket that gave Brainerd its 20-8 lead and induced the Fergus timeout.

“We lost our composure a little bit and we were doing some things that I haven’t even seen at practice,” Warriors head coach Troy Nelson said. “We were making long, cross-court passes as they were baiting us to do. We were trying to do a dribble handoff in a deep corner where they could trap us. It was just little things that were uncharacteristic.”


Brainerd’s Grace Zimmerman scored the first points of the second half, followed by consecutive Ratz 3-pointers. Ally Brzezinski buried a 3 -- her only shot attempt for the night -- to pull Brainerd to 31-25, but once again Fergus went on another 15-0 run to build a 46-25 edge.

Brainerd’s Meghan Smith stole the ball and hit a layup to end the run. She hit another basket to finish with a team-high seven points. Tautges also scored seven for the Warriors.

Brainerd shot just 6-of-23 from the field in the second half and was just 1-of-3 from the line. Fergus’ extra pressure hampered Brainerd’s offensive patience which resulted in 12 3-point attempts. Brainerd made just one.

The Warriors tipped and deflected a number of passes, but finished with just one steal and Fergus ended with just 14 turnovers.

“Usually you get a deflection in that zone and everyone is looking at the ball you go get it,” Nelson said. “Tonight we didn’t get any. We tipped a ton of passes and never got a steal off of them. Fergus shot lights out. Ratz is a great shooter. We lost our focus and had our back to her a few times. You expect her to hit a handful when you’re playing zone, but we gave her too many wide-open looks.”

After missing her first four field goal attempts, Ratz finished 9-of-11 from the field.

Fronning added 12 points for the Otters, who now own a four-game winning streak over Brainerd. Meis finished with seven points.

“I’m proud of our girls,” Strand said. “I told them that this was a game they’re going to circle. When times are tough, they’re going to refer back to this game against a tough Brainerd team on the road. You turn up the intensity and you can do it with defense.”


For more photos of the game between Brainerd and the Fergus Falls otters go to

Fergus Falls 25 28 -- 53
Brainerd 20 14 -- 34

Carlie Meis 7, Sabrina Fronning 12, Tori Ratz 28, Anna Anderson 5, Hannah Polejewski 1. FG 21-46 (46.7 percent), FT 2-5 (40 percent). 3-point 9-19 (47.4 percent).

Myah Nelson 6, Meghan Smith 7, Ally Brzezinski 3, Olivia Tautges 7, Delaney Schaeffer 2, Grace Zimmerman 4, Erika Lane 5. FG 13-37 (35.1 percent), FT 5-9 (56.5 percent). 3-point 3-21 (14.3 percent).


Fergus Falls 53, Warriors 34

Key: Fergus forced 20 Warrior turnovers and scored 23 points off of them

Conf: Brd 1-1, FF 1-0

Overall: Brd 1-1, FF 2-1

Next: Brainerd at Cambridge-Isanti 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5

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