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Boys Basketball: Warriors stay perfect with win over Rocori

Brainerd hosts Rocori in boys basketball Jan. 5

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
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BRAINERD — John Pecarich owned the first half and Eli Hoelz the second for the Brainerd Warriors as they improved to 7-0 with a 77-65 Central Lakes Conference win over the Rocori Spartans Thursday, Jan. 5.

Pecarich and Hoelz each finished with a game-high 24 points. Pecarich got 20 of them in the first half where he went 4-of-6 from downtown.

It was a pleasant site for Pecarich, who has struggled from 3-point range to start the season shooting 23% from 3 coming into Thursday.

“I finally found my rhythm in the first half,” Pecarich said. “It just boosts my confidence going into next week’s games.”

Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck also was pleased to see Pecarich return to form from long distance.

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“It was great to see him shoot the ball and it start to go through the net,” he said. “We just told him before the game to relax and do what comes natural. And that’s the Johnny that we are used to seeing. As we start to see games pick up I think guys are going to get a lot more comfortable shooting in games.”

When the Spartans went with a box-and-one defense and denied Pecarich the ball, Hoelz took over and scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half.

“I think he realized that when they dedicate one of their defenders to one of our players that is going to open up some driving lanes,” Schoeck said. “And Eli was effective in that.”

Brainerd's Sawyer Hennessey takes the ball up the court against Rocori on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at Brainerd.
Brainerd boys basketball against Rocori on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Spartans featured four players in double figures led by Jack Boos with 19 points and Andy Pedroza with 18 points.

Schoeck would’ve liked to see more focus on the defensive end as the Spartans shot 52% from the field and 53% from 3.

“We need to clean up a few things,” Schoeck said. “Like pick and roll coverage and just recognize what they are trying to do and recover.”

Brainerd led 40-31 at halftime. The box-and-one defense confused the Warriors for a little bit as Rocori cut Brainerd’s lead to 48-45.

“It took us a little while to get our bearings and get comfortable with what our game plan was against that,” Schoeck said. “Guys hit some key shots and Eli was getting to the rim that carried us in the second half.”

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Brainerd's Luke Diem defends against Rocori on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at Brainerd.
Brainerd's Luke Diem defends against Rocori on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Pecarich’s first bucket of the second half stretched the Warriors’ lead to eight.

Another Spartans run in the second half made it 61-58 before Hoelz scored six straight points for the Warriors.

Nick Evanson sank two free throws to get the lead back to double digits.

“I was just trying to get my teammates involved,” Pecarich said. “They are all focused on me and I try to set some back screens for my teammates and Hoelz started to get going.”

Evanson finished with nine points, but sat most of the second half with foul trouble. Sawyer Hennessey added eight points off the bench.

Brainerd shot 54% from the field and 40% from 3-point.

The Warriors’ next opponent is Eden Prairie, which is ranked fifth in Class 4A Tuesday, Jan. 10. Brainerd is ranked 20th in Class 4A.

“We are just focused on one game at a time,” Pecarich said. “We just have to be ready and not afraid to play in big city schools.”

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Rocori 31 34 — 65

Brainerd 40 37 — 77

ROCORI

Jake Boos 19, Andy Pedroza 15, Tyson Willenbring 18, Eli Anderson 10, Brady Schafer 3. FG 24-46 (52%), FT 9-15 (60%). 3-point 8-15 (53%).

BRAINERD

John Pecarich 24, Eli Hoelz 24, Nick Evanson 9, Jake Merseth 4, Luke Diem 5, Korde Roseman 3, Sawyer Hennessey 8. FG 31-57 (54%), FT 5-10 (50%). 3-point 10-25 (40%).

Warriors 77, Rocori 65

Key: Pecarich and Hoelz each with 24 points to lead Warriors.
Conference: Brd 4-0, Roc 1-3.
Overall: Brd 7-0, Roc 4-4.
Next: Brainerd at Eden Prairie 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10.

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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