It wasn’t easy, but then winning one’s first game shouldn’t be.
The Brainerd Warriors needed an 11-4 run at the end of Tuesday’s Central Lakes Conference game to hand first-year head coach Brian McAllister his first victory, a 53-48 win over the St. Cloud Tech Tigers.
“I just told them to play hard and play with some intensity and play under control,” said McAllister. “At times we did that and then we had two- or three-minute runs where we lost our composure and we panicked and didn’t do what we were supposed to do and let them back in the game.
“When we did what we were supposed to do, we were all right. It’s not where we want to be, but for the first game of the year, now we know what we need to work on.”
Senior post Ally Mueller said she was more nervous at the beginning of the game than during the second half, when the Warriors trailed 38-33. An Emilee Branum 3-pointer spurred a 9-4 run that helped Brainerd tie the game 42-42 with 5:37 remaining.
Kayla Kraemer sank a three for her first points of the second half to hand Brainerd the lead with 2:55 remaining. It was the final lead change in a game that saw eight lead changes and four ties.
From there the Warriors outscored Tech 7-4, highlighted by Carlie Sweet’s four points, for the season-opening victory.
“I really think our intensity helped us through,” said Mueller. “Even when we were down, we lost our composure a little bit, but I think we regained it by working hard and playing with that intensity.
“You just play. You don’t really think about the pressure. I was a little nervous coming out of the gates more than anything.”
Mueller and Branum each scored 13 points for the Warriors, who shot 40 percent from the field, but just 48 percent (10-21) from the free throw line. Brainerd also lost 20 turnovers to Tech’s 13.
“Emilee, tonight, didn’t have a good first half,” said McAllister. “I just told her to keep shooting. Keep taking your shots and she knocked some shots down in the second half. Kayla Kraemer made some shots and handled the pressure.
“I thought our posts played really well. Ally Mueller played really well. She rebounded well and made some nice moves to the basket. Carlie Sweet did a nice job on the boards.”
Branum did most of her damage in the second half, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 11 in the final frame. Mueller scored nine points in the first half. She and the rest of the Warriors’ paint presence tallied eight second-chance points in the first half alone.
“Rebounding is always extremely important,” said Mueller. “I think especially with our size advantage in this game it was important that we cleaned up the boards.”
Kraemer and Sweet each finished with nine points and Ashley Tibbetts chipped in a scrappy seven.
Tech was led by Bobbie Bohlig’s 26 points. She scored 11 of those in the first half, but the Warriors managed to grab a 23-18 halftime edge.
“Our outside shooting wasn’t great tonight, but it was our first home game, our first game of the season, with a new coach and a new everything,” said McAllister. “I think there was a little nervousness out there by them and by me. I’m hoping as this progresses we’ll get more comfortable. Get the first one out of the way.”
St. Cloud Tech 18 30 — 48
Brainerd 23 29 — 53
ST. CLOUD TECH
Annessa Rosch 2, Kristin Wurm 7, Natasha Ambrose 6, Kaila Burroughs 6, Bobbie Bohlig 26, Leah Wurm 1. FG 19-64 (30 percent), FT 19-47 (40 percent), 3-point 4-24 (17 percent).
Kayla Kraemer 9, Carlie Sweet 9, Emilee Branum 13, Ally Mueller 13, Ashley Tibbetts 7, Jalynn Lamb 2. FG 19-47 (40 percent), FT 10-21 (48 percent), 3-point 4-11 (36 percent)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.