It didn’t take long for Whitney Weisz to find her land legs.
On Nov. 19, Weisz was winning the 100-yard freestyle in the Class 1A state swimming meet. On Thursday, the senior was helping the Little Falls Flyers rally to a 62-57 victory over the Brainerd Warriors.
Weisz led all scorers with 25 points, but it was a collective defensive effort that helped the Flyers force Brainerd into 16 second-half turnovers. Little Falls turned those turnovers into 16 points, helping evaporate a 47-35 Warrior lead.
“You got Whitney Weisz coming out with three quick steals, you got Jamie Jenks getting two key steals, defense was definitely the key to that big run,” said Flyers head coach Deb Yliniemi-Ahlin. “We had to give (Brainerd’s Kayla) Kraemer a little bit of room. When your offense runs through a player like Kraemer you have to give her a little bit of room and I thought Annie Ploof played incredible defense in that second half.”
The Flyers used a 14-1 run to gain their first lead since the opening basket at the 6:03 point. Ploof’s basket and free throw, followed by Jennifer Hortness’ basket, gave the Flyers a 50-49 advantage.
“I think we came out of the locker room ready and intense,” said Weisz. “We knew what we had to do. We pretty much had to shut down (Kraemer) and (Gretchen Kletscher) down. I think we did a good job of that. We just came out ready to play in that second half.”
Little Falls’ big run coincided with Brainerd’s Kayla Kraemer picking up her fourth foul.
“Kayla is our point guard,” said Warrior head coach Brian McAllister. “She is our best ball handler and our best outside shooter. She needs to stay on the floor. She played a decent game, but the one critical foul right before the half hurt.
“The effort of the girls was good and the intensity was good. In the first half we scrambled some, but our shots were going. In the second half, when the shots aren’t going and we’re scrambling, then it gets a little hairy.
“It’s not a good way to start a season, but we told the girls to learn from it.”
Kraemer finished with 18 points, 15 of those in the first half when Brainerd secured a 35-25 halftime lead. The Warriors shot 48 percent (16-of-33) in the first half, but just 35 percent (8-of-23) in the second half. Kletscher added 18 points and 10 rebounds and sophomore Maria West added 11.
“We tried to force too many things,” said McAllister. “We needed to run our offense and work for a good shot. We need to learn the difference between not stalling, but just work for a good shot. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready for next week.”
Ploof scored 12 points, eight coming in the second half, for the 2-0 Flyers.
“This was a really big win, especially coming from a big deficit,” said Weisz, who added five blocks and four steals. “We came back and that’s saying a lot about our team. We don’t know how we’re going to be this year, but if we keep playing hard and at the level I know we can play at we’ll win a lot of games.”
Little Falls 25 37 — 62
Brainerd 35 22 — 57
Annie Ploof 12, Mariah Burns 6, Jennifer Hortness 4, Whitney Weisz 25, Jamie Jenks 9, Amber Hines 6. FG 24-47 (51 percent), FT 13-33 (39 percent), 3-point basket: 1-4 (25 percent).
Jenna Degen 2, Maria West 11, Taylor Johnshoy 2, Kayla Kraemer 18, Gretchen Kletscher 18, Chloe Miller 4, Tedi Ramberg 2. FG 24-56 (43 percent), FT 9-19 (47 percent), 3-point baskets: 2-6 (33 percent).
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.