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Warriors Athlete of Week: Warriors’ Pecarich a point-making machine

Johnny Pecarich scored a season-high 24 points against Rocori to help Brainerd snap a two-game losing streak.

A boy lifts the ball for a layup.
Brainerd Warrior Johnny Pecarich lifts the ball for a layup Monday, Ja. 10, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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The Brainerd Warriors needed a spark.

Something big. There was no way the boys’ basketball team was going to finish last week 0-3 after entering the week 5-0. After two straight losses, one disappointing the other understandable, Junior guard John Pecarich exploded for 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point, to lead the Warriors to a 61-49 Central Lakes Conference victory at Rocori Jan. 7.

Pecarich added five rebounds and an assist and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.

“We were coming off some games we felt like we should have won and we just didn’t want to end the week with three straight losses,” Pecarich said. “We just wanted to win that game badly.”

In the Warriors 68-59 loss to Sauk Rapids Monday, Jan. 3, Pecarich tallied 22 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

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He was the fourth Warrior in double figures during a 75-58 loss to Class 4A’s 12th-ranked Buffalo Jan. 6. He finished with 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and four steals.

Pecarich’s 10 points were a season-low as the second-year varsity player has reached double figures in all eight games for the Warriors.

“I spent way more time in the gym,” Pecarich said. “Instead of just focusing on shooting 3s, I spent more time getting to the hoop and finishing with contact. It was hard because nobody wants to get hit when they go up for a shot. Sometimes you just have to take it.”

For the season, Pecarich leads the Warriors with 18.1 points per game. He’s shooting 42% from the field, 37% from 3-point and 93% from the line.

He’s third on the team with 5.4 rebounds per game to go with 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and almost a block a game.

What often goes overlooked is Pecarich’s defense and what he does to opposing shooters. Standing 6-foot-2 with a noticeably long wing-span, Pecarich can cause fits for opposing shooters.

“It would probably surprise a lot of people, but through the first four games, he led our team in rebounding,” Warrior head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “He’s really sneaky good at that. He’s been really good on the ball defensively. His length can really bother some guys. He has deceptive length. He really puts a little more pressure on guys than it might appear. It’s definitely an asset for him defensively.”

Pecarich called it a mindset. He said he loves to get into passing lanes and block shots when he’s facing shorter players. When it comes to rebounding he said it’s all about wanting the ball and just attacking it.

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But Pecarich is an offensive threat from anywhere on the court. It’s his strength.

“He’s really good offensively,” Schoeck said. “I honestly think he’s one of the best shooters in the state of Minnesota. He’s put in a lot of work in the offseason to make himself multi-dimensional. We’ve seen it a lot more this year where he’s shot facking and taking a guy off the dribble and taking it to the basket or pulling up for a jumper. He’s really put in the time and effort to make himself a three-dimensional scorer.”

Pecarich’s versatility opens the court for his teammates as well. As a team, Brainerd is shooting 48% from the field and 35% from 3-point. Three different Warriors are averaging double figures, with Nick Evanson sitting at 9.9 points per game.

Last season, as an offensive spark off the bench, Pecarich averaged 8.3 points per game on 52% shooting from the field and 56% from 3-point. He was also 9-of-10 from the line. He added 2.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 10 steals and two blocked shots.

“His confidence continues to grow and his feeling of being the part,” Schoeck said. “Oftentimes as sophomores guys are just trying not to get in the way. Now he’s one of the older guys and he realizes that. Just the confidence of knowing you belong is big.”

Pecarich wants his team to have confidence that they belong at state. He said that’s the biggest goal on his list. He said he’ll take all the offseason accolades that come with helping his team to the state’s final tournament.

“I really want to be a better leader this year, too,” Pecarich said. “Last year, my role was to come in, shoot a few 3-pointers and that’s basically it. This year, I have the ball way more in my hands and I have to produce way more.

“I feel like this team has a lot of potential and we’re just starting things really.”

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JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Other notable performances

Isaiah Germann, wrestling, finished 3-0 and won the 126-pound bracket at the Cambridge-Isanti Invite. He finished last week 5-0.

Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished 3-0 and won the 145-pound bracket at the Cambridge-Isanti Invite. He finished last week 5-0.

Gabe Wagner, wrestling, finished 4-0 and won the 152-pound bracket at the Cambridge-Isanti Invite. He finished last week 5-1.

Dalton Barrett, wrestling, finished 3-0 and won the 285-pound bracket at the Cambridge Isanti Invite. He finished last week 5-0.

Josie Harguth, gymnastics, won the beam with a 9.05 against Alexandria.

Thomas Ruhl, boys swimming and diving, won two individual events and was on one winning relay against St. Cloud Apollo.

Mason Kuepers, boys swimming and diving, won two individual events against St. Cloud Apollo.

Johnny Pecarich

Pecarich_Johnny.JPG
Johnny Pecarich

Sport: Boys basketball

Position: Guard

Year: Junior

Age:17

Height: 6-foot-2

Career highlight: Hitting the game-winner against Moorhead last season

Grade-point average: 3.2

Favorite class: History

Favorite food: Chicken wraps

Favorite movie: “Semi-pro”

Favorite TV show: “Family Guy”

Favorite website or app: Snapchat

Favorite restaurant: Buffalo Wild Wings

Future plans: Attend college and play basketball

Favorite athlete: Damian Lillard

Parents: Matt and Jill Pecarich

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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