Despite shooting just 38 percent from the field, and squandering 8- and 7-point leads, the Brainerd Warriors had a chance to extend the Fergus Falls Otters into overtime during Saturday’s matinee.
Trailing 63-60 with 12.3 seconds remaining after a timeout, Brainerd crossed half-court, threw a few passes and the ball wound up in the hands of Ian Haug. His 3-point attempt from the corner missed with about three seconds left.
Fergus Falls’ Jake Anderson was fouled and made two free throws with 0.9 seconds left as the Otters escaped with a 65-60 Central Lakes Conference win in the final game of the regular season.
Despite 13 wins, their most since the 2006-07 season, the Warriors received the No. 8 seed in the Section 8-4A tournament, and will travel to No. 1 Buffalo at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“It is what it is,” Warriors coach Scott Stanfield said of the seedings, which are based on a Quality Results Formula. “We should have had 14, 15 wins, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered. We still would have ended up there or seventh.
“We’re happy with the way the season went. We could have easily had a few more wins. I wish that would have happened, but we’ll get ready for Buffalo. We’ll go down there and battle them.”
Oddly enough, the Warriors stampeded Buffalo 73-52 Jan. 7 in Brainerd.
“We handled them pretty easily up here, but they will be a different team down there,” Stanfield said. “They will remember that and they will come after us pretty hard.”
The Warriors, who have lost three straight games, went hard after the Otters, taking a 15-8 lead in the first, a 30-29 edge at the half, and a 43-36 lead in the second. Brainerd got outscored 29-17 in the final 10-plus minutes. Fergus made 10 of 21 baskets (48 percent) in the second and 14 of 17 free throws.
A 10-point run enabled the Otters to transform a 45-39 deficit into a 49-45 lead with 7:28 left. Brainerd climbed within 57-55 with 1:45 to play on a Blake Peterson three.
The Warriors inched to 60-57 following a Tony Sauer layup with 29.7 seconds left and 62-60 after Jacob Blong’s 3-point play at 14.1 seconds. A Zach Rengel free throw put Fergus in front 63-60 before the Warriors’ final possession.
Mike Millard, a lean, lanky lefty, scored a game-high 25 points for the Otters. One of four Otters in double figures, Millard made 9 of 13 shots.
“I think he gets away with a lot of changing of the pivot feet, but if you can get away with it, then you keep doing it,” Stanfield said. “He’s hard to control.”
Brainerd made just 23 of 60 attempts from the field (38 percent) and 6 of 9 free throws. Peterson scored 12 points off the bench, making 4 of 7 shots. Marcus Comstock added 10 points, Riley Kline nine and Blong eight.
“We’re really having a hard time the last couple games finishing shots inside, wide-open looks,” Stanfield said. “For whatever reason, we’re not getting them to fall. If you don’t make those easy ones then every one gets a little harder.”
Fergus Falls 29 36 — 65
Brainerd 30 30 — 60
Mike Millard 25, Jackson McAllister 2, Austin Rund 12, Zach Rengel 10, Matt Suek 4, Jake Anderson 12. FG 21-44 (48 percent). FT 19-25 (76 percent). 3-point baskets: 4-18. Turnovers: 19.
Jack Sauer 3, Tommy Olson 3, Riley Kline 9, Marcus Comstock 10, Jagar Hanson 8, Blake Peterson 12, Jacob Blong 8, Tony Sauer 2, Ian Haug 3, Chris Bowman 2. FG 23-60 (38 percent). FT 6-9 (67 percent). 3-point baskets: 7-23. Turnovers: 13.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.