The Brainerd Warriors came out firing on all cylinders, but ran out of gas at the end to fall to the Alexandria Cardinals 47-46 in Central Lakes Conference boys' basketball Tuesday.
Brainerd had a chance. With eight seconds left, head coach Matt Urbanek called a timeout and set up a play that was supposed to go to guard Mike Zauhar. The Cardinals defended it perfectly and the Warriors scrambled to get an open shot.
Derek Levno escaped for an open shot in the left corner, but it missed the mark as the buzzer sounded.
"We wanted to have Mike come up and set a screen for Jorgen (Hartje)," Urbanek said, "then get Mike the ball after he screened. They did a good job of defending it, to their credit.
"They played real good defense when they needed to and we couldn't get the ball where we had intended to get it. That's the reason why we didn't get a good shot in the last eight seconds."
The Warriors held the lead for most of the game, but Alexandria slowly crept back until 4:29 in the fourth quarter when Cardinals center Charley Good hit a shot and was fouled. He knocked in his free throw for a three-point play that gave Alexandria a 44-42 lead.
The Cardinals scored eight straight points to open the fourth, which erased a six-point third-quarter Brainerd lead.
Bryce Cloutier tied it at 44 with two free throws and both teams exchanged baskets to tie it at 46, but Good hit the back end of two free throws to gain the final lead.
"I just think they started hitting their shots in the second half," Urbanek said. "I thought we played pretty hard the whole game. I was proud of how hard our kids played. They certainly were not outworked."
Brainerd was cruising in the opening quarter. After the Cardinals jumped out to an 8-3 lead, Brainerd knocked in the next 14 points to take a 17-8 lead. Six players scored in the quarter as Brainerd shot 7-of-10 from the field.
"We've developed a lot of confidence the last couple of weeks," Urbanek said. "The team knows that if we play hard and we play together we can play with anybody. We were expecting to play well early."
Brainerd kept up the intensity in the second. Paul Tuchscherer and Cloutier came off the bench to score four points apiece and Brainerd finished the half with a 28-20 lead. The Warriors shot 53 percent in the first half and held Alexandria to just 36 percent.
However, in the fourth, the Warriors shot just 10 percent (1-of-10) and scored just four points.
The Cardinals shot 4-of-5 in the fourth quarter to finally catch up and capture the lead.
"Down the stretch they made their open shots and we missed ours," said Urbanek. "That was the difference in the game.
"We have a lot of young players and as they get a little more experience, I think those shots will go in. We're getting there. I think we're close.
"I believe that we're building good confidence by playing good teams close like that.
"Now the next step is we need to make our breaks at crunch time."
Good scored a game-high 18 points, but for the most part Brainerd center Adam Converse shut him out until the second half. Good scored 10 of his points in the final half.
"I just kept him from using his right hand," said Converse. "I was fronting him the whole time too. I was concentrating on not jumping because his head fakes are pretty good."
Alexandria 8 12 16 11 -- 47
Brainerd 17 11 14 4 -- 46
Kevin Cunniff 8, Kyle Gearman 2, Keith Eckhoff 13, Charley Good 18, Brady Swedberg 4. Team totals: FG 19-40 (48 percent), FT 4-5 (80 percent). Conference -- 4-0. Overall -- 7-2. Next game: at St. Cloud Apollo 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Mike Zauhar 10 , Paul Tuchscherer 6, Jorgen Hartje 6, Jake Phillips 10, Adam Converse 2, Bryce Cloutier 6, Derek Levno 6. Team totals: FG 18-47 (38 percent), FT 3-4 (75 percent). Conference -- 0-4. Overall -- 4-6. Next game: host Little Falls 7:30 p.m. Friday.
3-point baskets -- B 7 (Hartje 2, Levno 3, Phillips 2, Zauhar 1), A 5 ( Cunniff 2, Eckhoff 3). Rebounds -- B 20 (Hartje 6). Turnovers -- B 7. Total fouls -- B 10, A 8. Assists -- B 13 (Hartje 4, Zauhar 3, Phillips 3). Steals -- B 5 (Hartje 2).
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