Isaiah Smith didn’t want to take any credit, but he could have.
The senior guard earned the right Friday night as he scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers, to ignite the Brainerd Warriors to a 53-47 Central Lakes Conference win over the previously unbeaten Fergus Falls Otters at Brainerd High School.
Smith’s bombardment from beyond the arc turned a 38-36 deficit into a 42-28 lead at 4:22 in the second half.
“I can’t get the credit,” said Smith. “It was my teammates like Logan McElfresh, driving the lane and kicking it out to me and I executed the play. So the credit should go to them.”
After trailing at the half by one, Fergus opened up the second half with a 12-6 run to claim its first lead of the game. The Otters built it to 38-31 thanks to back-to-back threes from Jaden Banks and another from Drew Pearson.
Sophomore post Kobe Ahonen, who scored all nine of his points in the second half, drained a three. Then Nick Schwen made a basket and then Smith got hot.
“Isaiah was off in the first half and I think a lot of it was from conditioning and getting his legs underneath him a little bit more,” Warriors head coach Scott Stanfield said. “He’s a very good shooter and he can make those shots. And Kobe can hit that shot. For a big kid, he can step out and hit it and he hit a big one for us.”
Field goals from Smith and Ahonen gave Brainerd a 48-42 lead with less than a minute left and the Otters couldn’t get closer. The same two hit two free throws each to seal the second-straight win for the Warriors.
“The thing about our team is we never give up,” said Smith. “That’s what I like about our team. This was a big win for us because they were undefeated and it was a good team we just played.”
Schwen scored seven points in the first half to lead the Warriors to a 23-22 lead. The senior forward finished with 14, including five points in Brainerd’s 11-0 run early in the first half. That gave the Warriors a 13-2 lead. Conor Gessell and Logan McElfresh each scored five points in the first half.
The Warriors shot 32 percent from the field in the opening frame, but were just 2-of-15 (13 percent) from 3-point. Brainerd was 3-of-5 from the arc in the second half.
“We took the kids in at half and the first five minutes was explaining what a good inside-out three is and that’s not from 30 feet,” said Stanfield. “We just took terrible shots. You don’t want to burn a timeout every time they take a shot like that because you know you’re going to need them later so we had to get to halftime to really make that adjustment. In the second half, I thought we had much better shot selection.”
The Otters answered with a 10-0 run of their own in the first. Austin Rund, who led Fergus with 12 points, scored five in that span.
This is the 18th straight conference win for Brainerd, which is 23-4 at home in the last three years.
“This was a big win early,” said Stanfield. “Every win we get early is really going to help us late in the year. Once we get all of our kids in really good shape and Grant Reuer back, who is probably our best shooter, once we get him back and healthy we’ll be really good.”
Fergus Falls 22 25 — 47
Brainerd 23 30 — 53
Drew Pearson 8, Noah Strom 3, Matthew Monke 8, Jaden Banks 9, Jake Western 4, Isaiah Lemke 3, Austin Rund 12. FG 13-41 (32 percent), FT 13-21 (62 percent). 3-point 8-23 (35 percent).
Isaiah Smith 15, Nick Schwen 14, Logan McElfresh 5, Conor Gessell 5, Logan Madsen 3, Jacob Russell 2, Kobe Ahonen 9. FG 17-47 (36 percent), FT 14-23 (61 percent). 3-point 5-20 (25 percent).