Boys Basketball: Duluth East grabs double-overtime win over Warriors

Brainerd hosts Duluth East Tuesday, Jan. 24

Brainerd Warrior Boys Basketball against the Duluth East.
Duluth East Greyhound Jobe Juenneman guards Brainerd Warrior John Pecarich during their game Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — It was a second half to remember for the Duluth East Greyhounds Tuesday, Jan. 24.

After trailing by as many as 14 in the first, the Greyhounds rallied to grab an 82-77 double-overtime win over the Brainerd Warriors.

Duluth East head coach Rhett McDonald said he didn’t have a good answer for how his team was able to pull out the win.

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“Last week was a tough week for us where we lost three really close games like this one,” he said. “We just wanted to continue to trust the process, which I know sounds cliche and coach-speak, but I thought that’s what we did tonight when we got down by 14.”

The Greyhounds went on a 28-7 second-half run to take a 68-59 lead with five minutes left in regulation.


An Eli Hoelz 3-pointer made it 69-67 with 10 seconds left. An offensive foul was called on the Greyhounds giving the Warriors the ball back with a chance to tie or win.

Brainerd’s Garrett Gilbert scored a putback off a Nick Evanson missed layup to force overtime.

Brainerd Warrior Boys Basketball against the Duluth East.
Brainerd's Nick Evanson attacks the basket in a game against Duluth East Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“The plan was for Johnny (Pecarich) to come off a screen to get the ball,” Schoeck said. “But we didn’t quite execute it like we wanted.”

After each team scored two points in overtime, Brainerd’s Jake Merseth missed a game-winning 3-pointer to take it into a second overtime.

Duluth East dominated the second overtime and scored the first nine points to put the game out of reach.

The Greyhounds were led by Dillon Bement who scored 23 points.

“Dillon needed a game like that,” McDonald said. “He was really aggressive tonight and made plays down the stretch. I think Dillon really got us going today when we needed it.”

Brainerd Warrior Boys Basketball against the Duluth East.
Brained Warrior Jonathan Benson shoots the ball against the Duluth East Greyhounds Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at Brainerd High School
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Duluth East’s two 6-foot-8 players combined for 35 points. Patrick Smith recorded 20 points with Rocco Paulson adding 15.


Smith and Paulson did not just hurt the Warriors inside as they each hit two 3-pointers.

“That’s never really happened in a game — to get four 3s in a game from our bigs,” McDonald said. “Thankfully it happened because our guards took a while to get going. Credit to Brainerd, they took our two best guards out of play today, but our role guys really made a difference.”

Schoeck said the execution in the second half wasn’t quite where it needed to be for them to win.

Brainerd Warrior Boys Basketball against the Duluth East.
Brained Warrior Eli Hoelz during their game Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“We were letting the ball stick a little bit and were not looking for a good inside-out look and maybe taking some quick shots,” he said. “We just have to do a better job of doing what was successful in the first half and sticking to it.”

The Warriors were led by Pecarich who finished with a game-high 25 points, 19 of which came in the first half.

Pecarich nailed five 3-pointers and hit 7-of-9 from the field in the first half.

“There was a lot of momentum in the first half with Johnny making shots,” Schoeck said. “To Duluth East’s credit in the second half, it wasn’t anything special they did. They just chased the guy around and did a good job of defending him in the second half.”

McDonald said taking Pecarich away was key to their second-half comeback.


“He was hitting some really tough shots early on,” he said. “What can you do with some of the shots he hits? He’s hitting stepbacks from the corner with guys in his face.”

Evanson added 17 points and Hoelz 12 for the Warriors.

Brainerd led 43-31 at the half. Duluth East started on a 7-0 run, but the Warriors responded with a 9-2 answer before the Greyhounds’ huge run.

Duluth East led 15-14 to start before the Warriors responded with a 10-0 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Pecarich and Luke Diem.

Brainerd went on another first-half run to get its largest lead of 39-25 after a Hoelz basket.

“We have to focus on putting together a full 36 minutes,” Schoeck said. “There were times where we were committed to our game plan and what we wanted to do. We looked tough in the first half, but it’s just those stretches where we get away from what we are trying to do that ends up hurting us.”

The Warriors drop to 9-3. All three of Brainerd’s losses have been non-conference and non-section contests.

Duluth East moved to 11-4 and came into Tuesday losers in three of its last four.

The Warriors host Central Lakes Conference foe Alexandria Thursday, Jan. 26.

“We will try to watch some film tomorrow and get better that way,” Schoeck said. “But we’ve got to put this one behind us quickly because Alexandria is coming.”

Duluth East 31 38 2 11 — 82

Brainerd 43 26 2 6 — 77


Dillion Bement 23, Brennan Meyer 6, Wyatt Johnson 2, Ty Nyberg 2, Jobe Juenneman 5, Michael Kastelic 8, Patrick Smith 20, Rocco Paulson 15. FG 31-51 (60.8%), FT 9-16 (56.3%). 3-point 10-17 (58.8%).


John Pecarich 25, Eli Hoelz 12, Nick Evanson 17, Jake Merseth 3, Luke Diem 9, Sawyer Hennessey 3, Jonathan Benson 2, Garrett Gilbert 6. FG 31-68 (45.6%), FT 2-5 (40%). 3-point 13-35 (37.1%).

Duluth East 82, Brainerd 77 (2OT)

Key: Duluth East mounts second-half comeback and wins in 2OT.
Overall: Brd 9-3. DE 11-4.
Next: Brainerd hosts Alexandria 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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