Girls Basketball: Strong paint presence helps Warriors defeat Spartans

Brainerd hosts Rocori Feb. 7

Warrior girls basketball player going for the shot.
Brainerd Warrior Addison Bjorklund prepares to shoot the ball Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, against the ROCORI Spartans in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — With strong inside play, the Brainerd Warriors earned their second win over the Rocori Spartans in eight days Tuesday, Feb. 7.

Sophomore forward Karley Dunham led the attack for the Warriors with 16 points and 13 rebounds, which paced her team to a 52-37 Central Lakes Conference win.

“I’ve just been working hard in practice and my teammates have been pushing me,” Dunham said. “I’ve been getting my confidence up which has really helped. This year we have been putting in a lot of plays to get the ball to our posts.”

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Dunham wasn’t the only inside threat for the Warriors as forward Addison Bjorklund hit on all four of her shots in the paint and finished with nine points. Freshman forward Allison Thomes chipped in six points in the paint as well.

“I thought offensively, our ball movement and player movement were probably some of the best we had all year,” Warriors head coach Troy Nelson said. “It was fun to watch. We were trying to get the ball up the floor and get it into the post. We either wanted to let the post make a move or have the cutter relocate and try to get some inside-out looks. I thought the girls executed really well today.”


Brainerd beat the Spartans 59-43 on Jan. 30, but Nelson said he didn’t change the gameplan much from what worked to get the win eight days prior.

“I put three things up on the board before the game: defense, rebound and take care of the basketball,” he said. “We just talked about how if we played great defense and owned the rebounds we would be in the game. I thought the girls did a great job of doing that today.”

Dunham said teamwork played a big part in the win.

“Our bench was really loud and we were just all working together really well,” she said. “Lots of people are scoring and that teamwork is something that we have really been working on.”

Brainerd Warrior girls basketball players fight for the ball.
Brainerd Warriors Emma Sheflo, left, and Allison Thomes, right, fight for the ball against a ROCORI player Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Brainerd
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd’s defense held the Spartans to just 14 second-half points. For the game, the Warriors held Rocori to 25% shooting, including 22% from 3-point range.

“We talked about in the first half how we were not always in our gaps,” Nelson said. “We gave up baseline a few too many times and I think they had 10 offensive rebounds in that first half, which gave them some easy buckets. So our concentration in the second half was to tighten up the defense a little bit, hold them to one shot and try to make them shoot contested shots.”

The Warriors led 28-23 at halftime and went on a 14-6 run to start the second half.

Brainerd took its biggest lead at 45-32 after a Kate Stadum 3-pointer. Stadum was was also in double figures with 11 points.


Rocori made a quick 4-0 run, but Dunham scored the last seven points for the Warriors to close it out.

“Last couple of weeks, (Dunham) has taken some big steps,” Nelson said. “You can just see her confidence keep rising and rising. She’s going up strong and finishing strong in the post. She’s getting a lot of rebounds for us and her defense has been good against other team’s posts also.”

The Warriors started the game on a 12-5 run. Rocori tied the game at 16 before Brainerd went on a 12-4 run before a 3-pointer by Rocori’s Kate Van Erp at the end of the half.

Brainerd moves to 4-6 in conference and 7-13 overall. The Warriors travel to Moorhead for a Section 8-4A contest Friday, Feb. 10. Brainerd beat the Spuds 30-27 on Jan. 3.

“We just need to keep growing and improving, playing together and being great teammates,” Nelson said. “If we do those things, I’m excited to see what the next couple of weeks will look like.”

Rocori 23 14 — 37

Brainerd 28 24 — 52


Jenna Boos 9, Jada Bierschbach 7, Amber Field 5, Morgan Stang 5, Kate Van Erp 11. FG 13-52 (25%), FT 5-13 (38.5%). 3-point 6-27 (22.2%).


Kate Stadum 11, Kylee Soens 2, Emma Sheflo 3, Ana Bjorklund 3, Karley Dunham 16, Allison Thomes 6, AJ Johnson 2, Addison Bjorklund 9. FG 22-57 (38.6%), FT 7-17 (41.2%). 3-point 1-12 (8.3%).

Warriors 52, Rocori 37

Key: Strong second-half defense gives Brainerd a win.
Conference: Brd 4-6, Roc 3-7.
Overall: Brd 7-13, Roc 6-15.
Next: Brainerd at Moorhead 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10.

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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