Bryan Virnig showed his quickness by rushing for 42 yards and returning a punt 50 yards on the Metrodome turf in the Pierz Pioneers Class 2A state semifinal victory Nov. 19.
Lately he's displayed the same quickness on the basketball court. The sophomore scored 21 points in the Pioneers' 85-63 non-conference victory over East Central Jan. 10.
"Going into halftime we were down by two," said Pierz boys' coach Kurt Stumpf. "He really is a good leader and he runs the transition and fast break so well. That was a reason we got 25 points in the fourth quarter, because he runs the floor so well. He has the mindset that we have to run the floor and he's a catalyst for that."
Virnig added 17 points against Maple Lake in a 73-70 victory Jan. 11.
"I get a lot of fast-break points," said Virnig. "I get out ahead of everyone and hopefully someone can find me. I like taking it to the hole whenever I see an opportunity and I finish well."
Virnig has scored 158 points in 12 games for a 13.2 per-game average. He has 69 rebounds, 25 steals and 29 assists for the 8-4 Pioneers.
"Anyone on this team can step up ... But I like to have the ball. I like to have it whenever I can."
Pierz basketball player
"His greatest strength is his quickness," said Stumpf. "He has the ability to get a defensive rebound and take it coast to coast for a fastbreak layup. His ballhandling and ability to take the ball to the hole is what separates him."
The 6-foot-2 forward played on the varsity last year, but mononucleosis sidelined him for a month and he never recaptured his stamina. This season Virnig hasn't missed a step.
In a 70-56 loss to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Jan. 17, Virnig again led Pierz with 12 points and added five rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.
Stumpf sees Virnig gaining respect and becoming a go-to player for Pierz.
"He's emerging as a good leader," said Stumpf. "He might be our go-to player in the second half. You need that player. A lot of our games we'll have five or six guys with 10 points and that's good to have balanced scoring, but you need that one leader and hopefully he develops into that."
Virnig likes the responsibility, but knows his teammates are just as capable.
"Anyone on this team can step up," said Virnig. "Peter Janson has hit some big shots for us and Shane Weber hit a game-winner for us earlier in the season.
"But I like to have the ball. I like to have it whenever I can."
Other notable performances:
Basketball -- John Holder, Aitkin, scored 21 points against Crosby-Ironton.
Isaac Johnson, Verndale, scored 27 points against Bertha-Hewitt.
Aaron Kampa, Lake Region, scored 22 points against Laporte.
Chris Jansson, Staples-Motley, scored 22 points against Wadena-Deer Creek.
Joe Stoll, Pillager, scored 21 points against Sebeka.
Brett Dickie, Crosby-Ironton, scored 23 points against Eveleth-Gilbert.
Hockey -- Jake Kluver, Little Falls, recorded 14 saves in a shutout of Wadena-Deer Creek.
Jared Festler, Little Falls, had three goals and one assist against Prairie Center.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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