If nothing else comes from Thursday's Central Lakes Conference girls' basketball game, at least the Brainerd Warriors showed they're great at winning ugly.
Never mind the 19 turnovers committed by the 5-3 Warriors. Forget about Brainerd's field goal percentage of 33. It's of no consequence Brainerd was outrebounded 34-24.
What matters is Brainerd played well enough to beat the Sauk Rapids Storm 48-40 at Brainerd High School, improving to 4-2 in the conference.
For as unappealing as Brainerd played it forced the Storm to play worse. The Warriors forced 24 turnovers and held the Storm to a field goal percentage of 30.
Except for a slip at 2:13 in the third quarter, the Warriors led for all of the final three quarters. Brainerd built a seven-point lead early in the third, but the Storm closed the deficit.
"They pressured the ball handlers and they overplayed the wings," said Megan Arns. "It made it a little more difficult to get our offense started. We weren't able to get the ball down to our posts to get the open shots."
Erica Nelson hit two clutch 3-pointers late in the third, giving Brainerd a 34-32 lead. It was the final lead change of the game. Brianna Olson scored seven of her eight points in the second half and Arns led all scorers with 14.
"I'm trying to be more aggressive," said Arns. "After being told all year to shoot, it's finally coming to
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me. As the season progresses it will come even more, the shots will start going in and I'll get a little more confident. It started coming a little bit (Thursday)."
Brainerd played well against a much taller Storm team. At 6-foot-2, Jenna Kraayenbrink towered above Brainerd's lineup. The senior post finished with 10 points but was held to four in the second half. Brainerd switched to a zone defense late in the fourth quarter to prevent Kraayenbrink from taking over.
"We didn't want them to dump the ball down into Kraayenbrink and let her go to town because she's pretty good around the basket," said Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson. "She's been taking the ball to the basket a little more from that high post area.
"We just didn't want it to be the 'Kraayenbrink Show' with two minutes to go and then find ourselves down by two or three points. We decided to go to our zone and make them shoot from outside."
Brainerd held Sauk Rapids to 2-of-10 shooting in the fourth quarter. The Warriors built a six-point lead after an Arns free throw made it 44-38. Arns closed the game with two more free throws.
"Right now we're just playing hard," said Hendrickson. "We talk about this a lot, especially at halftime, that we need to come out and work harder than we did in the first half. Even if we think we're tired we still have to continue to work and outwork our opponents.
"We really laid it out on the floor (Thursday). It wasn't the prettiest game, but we just stayed after them, kept the pressure on and mixed up our defenses enough that it kept them off-balance."
Sauk Rapids 9 8 16 7 -- 40
Brainerd 7 14 16 11 -- 48
Kelsey Steuber 10, Randi Ziebarth 2, Michelle Rockensock 6, Jenna Kraayenbrink 10, Kelly Cooper 4, Michelle Henry 4, Gia Dickinson 4. Team totals: FG 16-54 (30 percent), FT 6-10 (60 percent), 3-point baskets: 2-3 (Rockensock 1, Kelly Cooper 1). Conference -- 3-3. Overall -- 6-3. Next game: at Willmar 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Megan Arns 14, Erica Nelson 11, Brianna Olson 8, Haley Bower 4, Maria Swanson 7, Sarah Gervais 2, Lindsey Jourdan 2. Team totals: FG 16-49 (33 percent), FT 14-22 (64 percent), 3-point baskets: 2-4 (Nelson 2). Conference -- 4-2. Overall -- 5-3. Next game: at Grand Rapids 4 p.m. Saturday.
Rebounds -- B 24 (Arns 7, Olson 6), SR 34. Turnovers -- B 19, SR 24. Assists -- B 12 (Olson 3). Steals -- B 14 (Arns 5, Olson 4). Blocks -- 3 B (Olson 2).
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