Boys Basketball: Warriors take care of STMA in quarterfinals

Brainerd hosts St. Michael-Albertville in the Section 8-4A Quarterfinals Tuesday, March 7

Brainerd boys playing basketball vs STMA.
Brainerd Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck gestures to his players during their game with STMA Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The Warriors picked a good game to turn in their best defensive performance of the season Tuesday, March 7.

Third-seed Brainerd held the No. 6 seed St. Michael-Albertville Knights to 47 points on their way to a 65-47 victory in the Section 8-4A Quarterfinals.

“The matchups we came out with in the first game — we wanted to switch those up,” Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “Getting Jon Benson and Garrett Gilbert on (Colton) Demarais was big and putting Nick Evanson on Jeremiah Johnson was a game changer, too.”

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Demarais was the only Knight in double figures with 15 points while Evanson held Johnson to eight points.

Brainerd senior Johnny Pecarich scored above his 23.6 scoring average with a game-high 29 points on 13-of-20 shooting.


“I felt like I had a mismatch every time I got the ball,” Pecarich said. “When I was getting the ball, I knew I was going to score.”

As a team, the Warriors shot 59.1% from the field and 41.2% from the 3-point line.

Brainerd boys playing basketball vs STMA.
Brainerd Warrior Eli Hoelz leaps for the basket Tuesday, March 7, 2023, against STMA at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“That’s the one part of the game that comes easy for a lot of these guys,” Schoeck said of the offense. “It doesn't hurt to play at home where you are familiar with the surroundings. The guys knew the game plan offensively and just executed and played free.”

Nick Evanson added 14 points and Eli Hoelz and Jake Merseth recorded nine points each.

The Warriors used a 10-0 run to take a 19-8 lead early in the first half. Pecarich caught fire and drilled a long 3-pointer to make it 28-15 Warriors with three minutes left in the first half.

“We just wanted to be ready to play because last Friday against Alexandria we were just not ready,” Pecarich said. “It’s win or go home and we want to make the most of every second we have on the floor. We were pretty relaxed, but most of us are seniors, so it could be the last game you never know, but I feel like once you see the first bucket go down you are good to go the whole game — at least I am.”

Brainerd boys playing basketball vs STMA.
Brainerd Warrior John Pecarich shoots the ball against STMA Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Pecarich scored his 16th point of the first half as the buzzer sounded to give the Warriors a 37-23 lead into the break.

It was more Pecarich to start the second half as he scored seven of Brainerd’s first 10 points to extend the lead to 47-25.


“He did a good job of letting the game come to him,” Schoeck said. “Early on, we were trying to get a two-man game going with Nick and Johnny on the same side of the court looking for postup opportunities. They left Johnny isolated a lot in the mid-post and he was able to make some nice shots down there.”

Evanson got in on the scoring action and tallied the next seven points to give the Warriors a 54-31 lead which would be their largest of the game.

Brainerd boys playing basketball vs STMA.
Brained Warrior Nick Evanson shoots the ball against STMA Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd travels to No. 2 seed Moorhead for the Section 8-4A Semifinals Saturday, March 11.

The Spuds defeated Brainerd 72-66 on Feb. 24. Moorhead also has bounced the Warriors from the Section 8-4A playoffs the previous three seasons.

“We are going to have to be focused and have a couple of good days of practice,” Schoeck said. “We need to dial in our game plan with them. They are a unique team with some size and we will make some tweaks to dial in our game plan.”

Pecarich added: “I’m eager to go out there and play again. I’m ready to go up there and get revenge kind of. They’ve knocked us off the last few years, but we have a good team going up there this year, so we are feeling confident.”

STMA 23 24 — 47

Brainerd 37 28 — 65


Logan Jans 5, Jeremiah Johnson 8, Andrew Luster 4, Jake Vagts 8, Carter Arulund 7, Colton DeMarais 15. FG 22-46 (47.8%), FT 1-5 (20%). 3-point 2-7 (28.6%).


John Pecarich 29, Eli Hoelz 9, Nick Evanson 14, Jake Merseth 9, Luke Diem 4. FG 26-44 (59.1%), FT 6-8 (75%). 3-point 7-17 (41.2%).

Brainerd 65, STMA 47

Key: Tough defense advances Brainerd in the section playoffs
Overall: Brd 22-5, STMA 8-19.
Next: Brainerd at Moorhead TBA Saturday, March 11.

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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