Boys Basketball: Brainerd hosts STMA in opening round of sections

The Brainerd Warriors will host St. Michael-Albertville 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 7.

Basketball players on the court.
Brainerd's Eli Hoelz goes up for a basket against Rocori on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — It was 10 days ago.

The last time the Brainerd Warriors faced the St. Michael-Albertville Knights. Johnny Pecarich recorded 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Nick Evanson was 7-for-7 from the free throw line and finished with a team-high 25 points to go with nine rebounds and an assist.

Eli Hoelz contributed 14 points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal. Jake Merseth scored eight points, Luke Diem seven, Sawyer Hennessey five and Garrett Gilbert added two as Brainerd downed the Knights 83-77 Feb. 25 in Brainerd.

The Warriors will get another chance to knock down the Knights when third-seeded Brainerd hosts No. 6 STMA 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at Brainerd High School for the Section 8-4A Quarterfinals.

“I personally think it’s a good situation,” Brainerd head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “The game is fresh in your head. The scouting report isn’t all that far off so you’re still pretty familiar with the stuff they do. Matchup-wise I really like it for us personal-wise. Both teams essentially start four guards and one post player. Across the board, it should be a pretty good matchup.”


Charlie Schoeck
Charlie Schoeck

Despite owning a 7-1 record against section opponents and a 21-5 overall record, not to mention the No. 9 ranking in the last boys’ basketball poll, the Warriors landed the No. 3 seed.

Buffalo (20-6 overall, 6-1 section record) secured the No. 1 seed and will host No. 8 Rogers (8-18, 0-7). No. 4 Ek River (12-14, 6-2) will host No. 5 Bemidji (14-12, 1-4) and No. 2 Moorhead (18-8, 6-2) will host No. 7 Sartell (7-19, 1-7).

The section semifinals will be Saturday at the high seed and the section final will be Thursday, March 16, at a neutral site.

“It’s kind of cliche, but you always hear you want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season,” Schoeck said. “We’ve dropped a few games in the last couple of weeks, but it’s been a really busy last couple of weeks. We just had some uncharacteristic things in the losses. As a whole, I think we’re playing really good basketball.

“We know who we are. We know what we do and really the game plan doesn’t change a whole lot from day to day. Like I said, we know who we are and we know what we need to do to be successful.”

Following a 10-game winning streak, Brainerd finished the regular season 4-4. The losses came at Moorhead, Brainerd’s lone loss against a section opponent, and a 68-54 loss at Alexandria.

“It was interesting going into that last game,” Schoeck said. “We do our seeding by the Quality Results Formula and it was a result where we were either going to get the one seed or the three seed. We had no chance at the two seed, which is kind of odd. If we would have beaten Alexandria and Moorhead would have lost at St. Michael that would have given us a shot for the one seed, but we ended up a three.”

In Brainerd's 26 regular-season games, it outscored its opponents 2,040 to 1,707. Brainerd shot .49% from the field, 76% from the free throw line and 37% from 3-point.


Pecarich leads the team with 613 points (23.6 per game). He’s shooting .45% from the field and 37% from 3-point. He’s added 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals.

Evanson is averaging 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 59% from the field and 38% from 3-point.

Hoelz is averaging 15.5 points per game while shooting 50% from the field and 36% from 3-point. He’s adding 3.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game.

“Offensively, is kind of our calling card,” Schoeck said. “On offense, we’re pushing the pace in transition on missed baskets and getting turnovers. When we’re at our best, we’re sharing the basketball and making the routine play by just hitting the open man. I think it comes down to making the most of our possessions. Our points-per-possession is something crazy like 1.2, which is a sign of a really efficient offense. When we play like we know we can, we’re pretty potent offensively.”

In their first meeting, Colton Demarias tallied 25 points to lead STMA. Jeremiah Johnson scored 19 points followed by 14 from Jodan Holm and 10 from Landon Riebel.

“It’s a good feeling knowing you can lineup against any team and beat them,” Schoeck said. “Conversely, too, every team has a guy or two that can make the scouting report and the game plan difficult. There isn’t a gimmie game anywhere. Even in the one vs. eight game, both teams are going to have to show up and play. It’s good to have that confidence in knowing we can beat any team in the section.

“A lot of it comes down to match-ups and a lot of it comes down to how you’re playing on that given day.”

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