While walking off the Brainerd High School court Tuesday, Justin Mueller was told he knew how to put on a show.
The senior for the Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team recorded five statement-making blocks, feeding the crowd's excitement and satisfying Brainerd's need for defense.
Thanks to Mueller's blocks the Warriors won their first Central Lakes Conference game, 65-55, over the 1-10 St. Cloud Apollo Eagles.
"I get pretty excited," said Mueller. "I just time it right. If somebody gets beat off the dribble, which I hope they don't, but if they do, then I'm there with help defense.
"We can feel the excitement from the crowd and it gives the whole team a boost. It turns into fastbreak points and easy buckets for us."
Mueller added 14 points in a balanced Brainerd offensive attack. Blake Eller scored 14, followed by Zach Eastman and Jase Renneke with 10 apiece, Adian Kummet's nine and Lucas Brick's eight.
It was Mueller's high-flying antics that squashed a late Eagles rally.
"Justin had a real strong game, rebounding the ball and blocking shots," said Warriors coach Matt Urbanek. "Justin is the kind of player that can affect a game in many other ways besides scoring. He dominated the game. He only scored 14 points, but his effect on the game was enormous."
Warriors 65, Apollo 55
The key: Justin Mueller recorded five blocks.
Next: vs. Rocori 7:30 p.m. Friday
Brainerd played probably its best half of the season, shooting 13-of-29 in the first. The Warriors jumped to a 24-17 first-quarter lead and built it to 42-31 at halftime.
Brick, Eastman and Eller shared spurts of two straight 3-pointers, lifting the Warriors to the nine-point advantage.
"It was nice to see that balance on offense," said Urbanek. "The defense can't focus on one player. That balance between outside points and inside points is important. We don't want to be a one-dimensional team. It was nice to see a lot of players step up and make contributions.
"A reason why we had a balanced attack was because we were very unselfish passing the ball. We had the defense scrambling. Our guys were willing to make the extra pass for a better shot."
Apollo's Chris Welle missed just one shot in the first half on his way to scoring 10 of his game-high 23 points. The lanky forward followed his hot first half with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the second half.
"We knew he was a pretty good shooter," said Urbanek, "but (Tuesday) he was just in a zone. It seemed like he couldn't miss. We tried to switch up defenses and he still made his shots. We brought in different defenders and he still made his shots.
"It's just a case where you need to give the guy credit for making shots. He had an unbelievable game."
In the end it was Mueller.
St. Cloud Apollo 17 14 17 7 -- 55
Brainerd 24 18 13 10 -- 65
ST. CLOUD APOLLO
Ben Crawford 8, Preston Whitaker 2, Blake Weirens 4, Seth Noreen 6, Chris Welle 23, Justin Brutger 4, Paul Eich 2, Kaleb Rosenow 6. Team totals: FG 23-45 (51 percent), FT 2-4 (50 percent), 3-point baskets: 7-13 (Welle 5, Crawford 2). Conference -- 1-4. Overall -- 1-10.
Blake Eller 14, Zach Eastman 8, Lucas Brick 10, Justin Mueller 14, Jase Renneke 10, Adian Kummet 9. Team totals: FG 19-48 (40 percent), FT 19-24 (79 percent), 3-point baskets: 6-19 (Eller 2, Brick 2, Eastman 2). Conference -- 1-3. Overall -- 3-5. Next game: host Rocori 7:30 p.m. Friday.
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