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Boys Basketball: Brainerd’s defense and bench finish off Otters

Brainerd hosts Fergus Falls Feb. 15

Boy shooting basketball
Brainerd Warrior Eli Hoelz shoots the basketball Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, against the Fergus Falls Otters in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Intense.

That’s how Brainerd head coach Charlie Schoeck described his team’s defense in the first half against Fergus Falls.

The Warriors allowed just 11 points in the first 18 minutes and forced the Otters into 19 turnovers total as Brainerd embarked on a 72-55 Central Lakes Conference win over Fergus Falls Tuesday, Feb. 15.

“It was just our intensity plain and simple,” Schoeck said. “It’s not a strategy we haven’t used before. It was just execution and being bulldogs around the ball.”

Brainerd used a full-court press both man-to-man and diamond to cause havoc in the first half.

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“It’s something we did early on in the year,” Schoeck said. “I think it’s something psychologically, for our team, it can be good to press full court because it gets us on the attack and in that attack mindset.”

Eli Hoelz led the charge offensively for the Warriors off the bench. The sophomore scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the first half where he went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including three 3-pointers.

“I just liked his confidence and how comfortable he felt,” Schoeck said. “He stepped into a couple of shots and knocked them down. And on the defensive side, on ball, he was good and I think that sparked his offensive play a little bit.”

Hoelz knocked four 3-pointers total and said after the game the three he made in the first half gave him confidence.

“I just wanted to stay aggressive and find my teammates when they are open,” he said. “Seeing a few shots go down always gives you confidence and I just kept hitting them.”

Cam Engholm also scored 18 points for the Warriors to go with nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. The senior scored all his points in the paint against a smaller Otters squad.

“Fergus was double teaming and or switching a lot of ball screens and that opened up the slip for him and our guys did a good job of directly finding him on the slip or passing to the wing and getting it down to him,” Schoeck said.

Brainerd led 28-11 at halftime. The Otters cut the lead to single digits 51-42 with under seven minutes to go.

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Kaden Conklin caught fire for Fergus Falls and rained in five 3-pointers in the second half. He finished with 18 points all coming in the second frame.

“We just needed to refocus and make sure we were all on the same page with what we were trying to do,” Schoeck said.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Johnny Pecarich followed by a Degen and another Pecarich 3 pushed the Warriors’ lead back to 13.

Pecarich finished with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. He scored 11 of his 16 in the second half.

Nick Evanson also found double figures with 11 points and swiped three steals.

The Warriors improve to 10-2 in the conference and are back home Friday to face Rocori.

“This win gives us a big boost and gets us back on track,” Hoelz said. “We know what team we can be and just to see that happen is good for us to see.”

Schoeck added: “All our goals are still right there in front of us. Win out in the conference and we will be on the top of the conference standings. Then playoffs are what they are. Everyone has the same shot to win it when they get there.”

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Fergus Falls 11 44 — 55

Brainerd 28 44 — 72

FERGUS FALLS

Jack Ratz 2, Kaden Conklin 18, Elloit Pribbenow 4, Aikhem Bethel 10, Jaydon Manteufel 5, Luke Newman 14, Erik Hanson 2. FG 20-41 (48.8%), FT 7-13 (53.8%). 3-point 8-21 (38.1%).

BRAINERD

John Pecarich 16, Nick Evanson 11, Eli Hoelz 18, Mitchell Degen 9, Cam Engholm 18. FG 28-49 (57.1%), FT 7-8 (87.5%). 3-point 9-21 (42.9%).

Warriors 72, Fergus Falls 55
Key: Tough first-half defense gives Brainerd win.
Conference: Brd 10-2, FF 3-8.
Overall: Brd 13-8, FF 8-12.
Next: Brainerd hosts Rocori 7:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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