Threes and ties.
Those two words, along with a bit of heroics from sophomore guard Emily Thesing, sums up what happened Thursday night in a Central Lakes Conference girls' basketball game at Brainerd High School.
The Brainerd Warriors and Willmar Cardinals combined to hit 13 three-point shots. The game witnessed 17 ties and nine lead changes. Willmar's five-point lead with 1:16 remaining tied its largest lead of the game.
Brainerd's largest lead was four, but it only took two points to sweep the season series with Willmar as the Warriors won 60-58.
Down one with 19 seconds remaining, the Warriors brought the ball up the court. After a few passes, the ball found the hands of Thesing. The reserve guard's hot hand kept Brainerd close all night as she drained three of Brainerd's seven 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. None were more important than her final two.
Warriors 60, Willmar 58
The key: Emily Thesing hit the game-winner with four seconds remaining to lift the Warriors over Willmar
Conference: Brd 8-4, Will 6-6
Overall: Brd 11-6, Will 9-9
Next: Brainerd at Moorhead 7:30 p.m. Friday
Thesing drove toward the baseline. She stopped and got off a short floater in the right corner. The ball kissed the net and gave Brainerd a one-point lead with four seconds remaining.
"I just wanted to make it," said Thesing, before tears of joy consumed her. "We had a rough week. We really wanted to win it as a team and I just came in and did my best.
"I was nervous. There wasn't a set play at the end. Whoever got the ball had to try to drive to the hoop and try getting a foul or just hitting a basket."
Willmar called a quick timeout with 4.3 seconds remaining. The Cardinals designed a play to throw the inbounds pass past halfcourt and call another timeout. The plan worked except Willmar didn't have any timeouts left.
The result was a technical foul that gave Brainerd two free throw attempts and the ball. Kayla Huether hit one free throw.
"This has been a team that just does not quit all year long," said Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson. "Our kids hit some big shots, we got some big rebounds and these kids just did not quit. We've been in a number of close games this year and I think that's helped us down the stretch here where we were able to nip this one at the end."
Huether led the Warriors with 21 points followed by Thesing's 14 and Megan Bates' 12. The Warriors shot 43 percent from the field. An offensive adjustment helped the Warriors create open looks.
"Our assistants put in a new offense just for their zone that was giving us trouble," said Hendrickson. "I have to give our assistant coaches a lot of credit for this win. Had we not made that adjustment I'm not sure we would have gotten a lot of those open looks against that zone."
Lisa Nielsen led Willmar with 20 points before fouling out. Kelsey Evans scored 13, with 11 of those in the second half. Megan Brown also added 13 for Willmar.
"This is a big win for us," said Thesing. "This is the first time we've swept Willmar in the last 10 years or something. We wanted to come and get a win. That will help us stay third in the conference standings."
Willmar 25 33 - 58
Brainerd 25 35 - 60
Kelsey Evans 13, Brin Hanson 1, Hannah Okins 2, Briana Goldschmidt 9, Lisa Nielsen 20, Megan Brown 13. Team totals: FG 21-44 (48 percent), FT 10-21 (48 percent), 3-point baskets: 6-11 (Goldschmidt 3, Brown 2, Evans 1)
Stephanie Neugebauer 4, Kayla Huether 21, Megan Bates 12, Karlye Barron 5, Stacey Butler 2, Emily Thesing 14, Jessie Marolt 2. Team totals: FG 20-46 (43 percent), FT 12-17 (71 percent), 3-point baskets: 8-16 (Huether 3, Thesing 3, Bates 2).
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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