The Brainerd Warriors girls' basketball team may face its most demanding challenge of the season Friday night.
Unbeaten Willmar (13-0), ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, will be in town for a Central Lakes contest against the Warriors (8-6). The Cardinals solidified their status by handling St. Cloud Tech, ranked seventh in 4A, by a 62-57 margin Tuesday.
The Cardinals are led by senior point guard Alison Adamson, who scored her 1,000th career point Tuesday. Laura Nielsen, a 6-foot-1 freshman, has been a tremendous addition to the lineup.
"She's a good freshman player," Warrior coach Carl Hendrickson said of Nielsen. "She's got some size. She's good around the basket. They do a good job going high-low with Serena Jans and her, dumping down."
Jans is a 5-11 post who complements Nielsen in the paint. The Cardinals' other starters are 5-8 Kayla Hendrickson at guard and 5-7 Emily Swierenga at wing with 5-11 Tena Rytel the first player off the bench.
"They have so many weapons," Hendrickson said. "We will have to play a solid four-quarter game. One key is to control Adamson. She not only takes it to the basket, she passes the ball. She sees the floor so well, and can shoot it. She can stop on a dime and shoot it. We'll have to control her as much as we can.
"We have to try and take the high-low away from them because if Nielsen gets around the basket she will score or get fouled. We can't afford to have them throw it over the top on us all night and let Nielsen score."
Willmar trounced the Warriors 59-30 in the second game of the season. Adamson scored 17 points, Nielsen 15 and Rytel 10 while Brooke Rollins paced Brainerd with 11.
"They really did a number on us," Hendrickson said. "We turned the ball over quite a bit against their pressure and shot 8-for-36 (22 percent)."
Brainerd is coming off a 36-22 victory at Sartell. Megan Arns is leading the Warriors in most statistical category with 13.4 points, 56 assists, 49 steals and 8.6 rebounds. Julie Austin is averaging 10.5 points and Maria Swanson is averaging 6.2 rebounds.
"I would think with Willmar coming to town, being No. 1 in the state, and on top of the conference, our kids should be ready to play," Hendrickson said. "All we should have to do is tell them we're playing at home Friday against Willmar and that should be enough incentive to come out of the locker room ready to play."
Boys hockey -- The Warriors (5-7-1) host Sauk Rapids (8-4-0) tonight, travel to Duluth East (4-7-4) Saturday afternoon and are at St. Cloud Apollo (3-13-1) Tuesday. Last year, Brainerd stunned then fourth-ranked East 3-2.
Girls hockey -- Brainerd (12-5-1) is at Wadena-Deer Creek tonight and hosts St. Cloud Apollo (10-9-0) Tuesday.
Boys basketball -- The Warriors (8-4) host Alexandria (5-4) tonight, are at St. Cloud Tech (5-8) Saturday and host Bemidji Tuesday.
Gymnastics -- The unbeaten and fourth-ranked Warriors (6-0) host No. 9 St. Cloud Tech (4-1) tonight.
Swimming and diving -- Brainerd (4-1) hosts Sauk Rapids (5-1) tonight and is at Princeton Tuesday.
Wrestling -- The Warriors (7-5-0) are at St. Cloud Tech tonight, wrestle at the St. Croix Falls, Wis., tournament Saturday and are at Sartell (0-8) Tuesday.
Alpine skiing -- Brainerd skis in the Grand Rapids Invitational at Giants Ridge in Biwabik today and in the Buffalo Invitational at Power Ridge in Kimball Tuesday.
Nordic skiing -- The Warriors ski at the Grand Rapids Invitational Friday. Brainerd's boys' team is ranked ninth in the state.
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