Boys Basketball: Hoelz game-winner lifts Warriors over Alexandria

Brainerd hosts Alexandria Jan. 26

Basketball players competing on the court.
Brainerd's Eli Hoelz takes the ball from Alexandria on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — For the second year in a row, it took a game-winning shot for the Brainerd Warriors to knock off Alexandria.

This time it was Eli Hoelz raining in a long-distance 3-pointer as time expired for the Warriors to celebrate a 75-72 overtime victory over the Cardinals Thursday, Jan. 26.

“Honestly, I thought I left it short,” Hoelz said. “Johnny (Pecarich) had the ball and made a super-good pass and I don’t know. I just made the shot I guess.”

Hoelz’s shot capped off a 16-point second half for the junior guard, who helped catalyze Brainerd’s comeback.

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Hoelz also hit the game-tying shot in regulation with about a minute left. Hoelz’s 3-pointer from the corner tied the game at 70.


“We just stuck to our gameplan,” Hoelz said. “We just needed to execute in the second half and that’s what we did.”

After Alexandria was called for an offensive foul, Johnny Pecarich missed the potential game-winner in regulation to send the game into overtime.

It would be the second straight overtime for the Warriors. They fell in double overtime to Duluth East Tuesday night.

“We knew what it was going to take to come out on top and I thought Tuesday night played a big role in this win,” Hoelz said.

Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck said the experience of Tuesday night carried over to help them pull out a win Thursday.

“Having a double-overtime game so close to this one, the day in between you spend a lot of time going through some overtime scenarios in your head,” Schoeck said. “We kind of decided that if we had the ball in our hands with a tie game that we were just going to play it out and not let the defense get set and trust our guys and play.

“You could feel the intensity level pick up as the first overtime period comes along. We were a lot more ready for it today.”

Pecarich finished with a game-high 28 points, 18 of which came in the second half. It is the eighth straight game Pecarich has scored 20 points or more. He also dished out the assist to Hoelz on the game-winner.


Basketball players competing on the court.
Brainerd's John Pecarich goes up for a basket against Alexandria on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“You can’t say a whole lot more about (Pecarich),” Schoeck said. “The play at the end of the game was a very selfless type of play. He realized he didn’t have a shot and gave it up to Eli. These guys all trust each other and he knew Eli was going to do something with it.”

Hoelz finished with 18 points.

“He’s just a gamer,” Schoeck said. “He just keeps grinding and he did a good job late in the game to make sure when it was a big possession to get a bucket to slow us down and get us ready to go.”

Alexandria was led by Chase Thompson, who scored 24, and Grayson Grove, who scored 23. The twin towers gave the Warriors fits in the first half and combined for 30 points as the Cardinals enjoyed a 40-31 advantage at half.

“They are tough and both use their bodies well,” Schoeck said. “It’s extra dangerous when both are threats from the perimeter too. So, you really can’t take a second off. You have to follow them all over the court.”

Brainerd’s defense held the duo to just 17 points on 11 shots in the second half and overtime.

“We made some subtle adjustments,” Schoeck said. “We wanted Grove and Thompson to maybe be a foot off from where they wanted to catch the ball and our perimeter players we wanted them to sit in their lap and deny the past.

Nick Evanson finished with 13 points all in the first half including three 3-pointers.


Brainerd led 9-6 to start before Alexandria went on a 9-0 run.

The Warriors would not lead again until Hoelz’s game-winner.

Pecarich tied the game at 54 with free throws in the second half. The Cardinals responded with a 7-0 run to regain control.

Jake Merseth, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time tonight, made a free throw to tie the game at 67 with 1:13 left.

Grove recorded a three-point play followed by Hoelz’s game-tying 3.

The win moves the Warriors to 7-0 in the Central Lakes Conference. Brainerd also handed the Cardinals their first CLC loss.

“This is really big,” Hoelz said. “Obviously, Alex is a top team in our conference, so to get a conference win like this is really big.”

Brainerd is back in action Saturday, Jan. 28, at Elk River.


“We got a quick practice tomorrow afternoon and then on the bus for Saturday,” Schoeck said.

Alexandria 40 30 2 — 72

Brainerd 31 39 5 — 75


Trevin Hoepner 6, Grayson Grove 23, Chase Thompson 24, Jaxon Schoenrock 6, Bralyn Steffensmeier 7, Jacob Balcome 3, . FG 29-58 (50%), FT 9-10 (90%). 3-point 5-16 (31.2%).


John Pecarich 28, Eli Hoelz 18, Nick Evanson 13, Jake Merseth 9, Luke Diem 3, Sawyer Hennessey 2, Garrett Gilbert 2. FG 28-62 (45.2%), FT 8-9 (89%). 3-point 11-24 (45.8%).

Warriors 75, Alexandria 72 (OT)

Key: Eli Hoelz 3-pointer at the buzzer seals win for Warriors
Conference: Brd 7-0, Alex 6-1.
Overall: Brd 10-3, Alex 10-2.
Next: Brainerd at Elk River 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28.

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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