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Boys Basketball: Pecarich lifts Warriors over Alex in final seconds

Brainerd hosts Alexandria Thursday, Jan. 27

Basketball player looks to pass the ball
Brainerd's Cooper Jacobs looks to pass the ball against Alexandria Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — From his back, Johnny Pecarich hit the game-winning shot in the middle of the lane with 1.5 seconds left to give the Warriors a 57-55 Central Lakes Conference win over Alexandria Thursday, Jan. 27.

Alexandria’s Myles Sansted drilled a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to tie the game 55-55.

The Warriors decided not to use a timeout and the ball found Pecarich at the top of the key. He drove to his left and lost his balance falling to the ground. The ball bounced back to Pecarich however and from his back he gave Brainerd its seventh CLC win.

“We wanted to wait for the last shot and I just felt confident in my shot and I got it,” Pecarich said.

Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck added: “If we are in the right spots and we feel like the defense doesn’t have to talk things out that’s the best strategy to go with. The play didn’t pan out exactly how we drew it up, obviously, but it worked out either way.”

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Pecarich finished with 18 points and four 3-pointers for the Warriors. Cam Engholm also had 18 points and grabbed six rebounds.

Engholm scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, including a stretch where he scored eight straight points for Brainerd.

“At times they were switching up a lot of stuff on the perimeter and even doubling screens and hand-offs, so to get a guy like Cam slipping and getting to the hoop for some easy buckets and make them play straight up that was a big deal,” Schoeck said.

Pecarich nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the first to give the Warriors a 24-21 halftime lead.

“We just have a bunch of confidence going in and let that carry over in the second half,” Pecarich said.

An Engholm layup and Pecarich 3-pointer to start the second half gave Brainerd its largest lead at 29-21.

Alexandria wouldn’t go away and it was Kristen Hoskins who would bring them back.

The University of Minnesota football commit finished with a game-high 22 points, 15 of which game in the second half.

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He knifed his way into the teeth of the Warriors defense for three-straight layups to make the score 33-32 Brainerd with 11:47 left.

Brainerd’s strategy against Hoskins was to keep him out of the lane as much as it could and force him to shoot from the outside. It worked somewhat as Hoskins finished just 2-for-11 from 3-point range.

“They like to get to a lot of ball screens and pick-and-roll stuff with him,” Schoeck said. “We were going to go underneath him and make him prove that he could shoot from deep.”

After a Erik Hedstrom layup, the Cardinals took a brief 34-33 lead before Sawyer Hennessey responded with a 3-pointer to put Brainerd back in front with the Warriors’ only bench points.

With the game tied 38-38, Nick Evanson nailed a 3-pointer which would be the last basket of his 16-point night. Evanson scored 11 points in the first half and Schoeck liked the way he attacked the basket.

“I loved how he attacked,” Schoeck said. “He missed a couple early, but we gave him a reminder to get to that left hand and finish strong and don’t worry about that contact.”

The Warriors were a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line all of which came in the second half.

The win puts Brainerd atop the Central Lakes Conference standings as both the Warriors and Alexandria were tied in the standings entering the game.

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“This win just really boosts our confidence,” Pecarich said. “We have been losing quite a bit lately and we just wanted this one really bad.”

Brainerd hosts Elk River in a Section 8-4A matchup this Saturday.

“It’s a lot of momentum,” Schoeck said. “Alex is always a rival, regardless of where we are in the standings, so the guys will feel great about the win and it’s always easier to come back after a win, too.”

Alexandria 21 34 — 55

Brainerd 24 33 — 57

ALEXANDRIA

Carter Steffensmeier 8, Myles Sansted 3, Peter Sansted 5, Kristen Hoskins 22, Erik Hedstrom 13, Grayson Grove 4. FG 21-49 (42.9%), FT 7-9 (77.8%). 3-point (26.1%).

BRAINERD

John Pecarich 18, Nick Evanson 16, Mitchell Degen 2, Cooper Jacobs 3, Cam Engholm 18. FG 22-50 (44%), FT 8-8 (100%). 3-point 7-17 (41.1%).

Brainerd 57, Alexandria 55
Key: Johnny Pecarich hits the game-winner for Brainerd to beat Alexandria.
Conference: Brd 7-1, Alex 6-2.
Overall: Brd 9-5, Alex 11-4.
Next: Brainerd hosts Elk River 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29.

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

Related Topics: LOCAL SPORTSBRAINERD WARRIORSBASKETBALLBOYS BASKETBALL
Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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