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Boys Basketball: Warriors survive Tech 2nd half comeback for win

Brainerd hosts St. Cloud Tech Jan. 21

Basketball player shoots the ball
Brainerd's Mitchell Degen shoots the ball against St. Cloud Tech Friday, Jan 21, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Cam Engholm scored the game-winning layup with 0.7 seconds left as Brainerd escaped with a 62-60 Central Lakes Conference victory over St. Cloud Tech Friday, Jan. 21.

With 14 seconds left, Warriors coach Charlie Schoeck called a timeout to set up the final play.

The play was to send Johnny Pecarich off a double screen and hopefully get him or one of the bigs who set the screen slipping to the basket. Mitch Degen slipped off his screen and Cooper Jacobs threw him a pass at the free throw line.

Degen then threw a nice high-low pass to Engholm for the game-winner.

“We had an up-screen going to Johnny, but I kind of slipped it and was open,” Degen said. “I saw Cam open and threw it up and he finished it.”

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Schoeck added: “We knew that if (Tech) saw Johnny coming off some screens that they would try to switch out or jump out to the ball. We said be aware of the slip if you see your guy go. It was a great read by Mitchell and Cooper to make it happen.”

The game had a script the Warriors were far too familiar with at home. After leading by as many as 16 points in the first half, Brainerd took a 39-26 into the intermission.

Then, second-half turnovers by Brainerd brought St. Cloud Tech all the way back and with 7:10 left the Tigers led for the first time 48-47.

“We just needed to take a deep breath,” Degen said. “Coach called a good time out there and got us relaxed and back into it.”

Donald Ferguson scored a game-high 32 points for the Tigers and led the furious comeback. He was 12-for-13 from the free throw line and knocked down two 3-pointers.

Degen led the Warriors with 22 points. He scored a big basket after Tech went up 50-47

“I was doing a lot of screens and slips and it was just working out,” Degen said. “My teammates were finding me.”

Cooper Jacobs then nailed his only shot of the game for 3 to tie it 52-52.

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The teams traded baskets until Tech went up 58-55 with a little over three minutes left. Pecarich nailed his fourth 3-pointer with exactly three minutes left to tie it back up 58-58.

After a Warriors’ stop, Degen got loose for a layup to put Brainerd up by two.

Ferguson then knocked down two free throws to tie the score at 60 before Engholm’s game-winner.

“At about the four minute mark we called a timeout and literally all we talked about was not strategy, but getting the guys to breathe,” Schoeck said. “I wanted them to put their minds on the last four minutes.”

Coach talks to player during time out
Warriors coach Charlie Schoeck talks to the team during a time out against St. Cloud Tech Friday, Jan 21, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Warriors scored the first 11 points in the first half to jump to a double-digit lead. The lead grew to 16-2 after an Engholm basket.

Pecarich scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half, including three first-half 3-pointers.

“It’s great having him out there because you know if you are getting doubled you’re going to have him cross court and you can hit him and know he’s going to knock it down,” Degen said.

Degen has been battling a knee injury he suffered against Sartell Jan. 13.

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“He’s a warrior,” Schoeck said. “I didn’t think he was going to play last Saturday and he gutted it out. He’s invaluable.”

Cooper Jacobs tallied four assists, including a nice pass to Dylan Gross who scored a layup at the first-half buzzer.

The Warriors tallied 19 assists total with Degen netting seven and Nick Evanson with six.

For a good chunk of the second half, Schoeck went with a four-guard lineup of Jacobs, Evanson, Pecarich and Sawyer Hennessey with Degen or Engholm inside.

“They were running a little bit of a zone and we wanted Nick in the high post a little bit because he’s a good passer,” Schoeck said. “And get another shooter on the floor. Toward the end, we just knew with pressure we were going to need some extra ball handlers out there.”

The win snaps a two-game losing streak for Brainerd who are now tied for first place in the Central Lakes Conference with Alexandria at 6-1.

“This was a big game conference wise, there was a four-way tie at the top right now,” Schoeck said. “So I definitely think this can be a momentum builder.”

St. Cloud Tech 26 34 — 60
Brainerd 39 23 — 62

ST. CLOUD TECH
Devin Yeager 9, Garrison Murray 2, Josh Russell 2, Donald Ferguson 32, Abdi Ali 2, Jayln Simmons 11, Josh Harris 2. FG 20-53 (37.7%), FT 18-25 (72%). 3-point 2-11 (18.2%).

BRAINERD
John Pecarich 18, Nick Evanson 7, Eli Hoelz 2, Mitchell Degen 22, Cooper Jacobs 3, Dylan Gross 4, Cam Engholm 6. FG 22-46 (47.8%), FT 13-14 (92%). 3-point 5-18 (27.8%).

Warriors 62, St. Cloud Tech 60
Key: Engholm scores the game-winning layup for Warriors.
Conference: Brd 6-1, SCT 5-2.
Overall: Brd 8-4, SCT 8-5.
Next: Brainerd at Bemidji 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25.

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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