The three shortest Brainerd Warrior boys' basketball players made the largest impact Saturday at the Brainerd High School gym.
Derek Levno (5-foot-11), scored 15 points, Paul Tuchscherer (5-11) had 16 and Jake Phillips (6-0) led all scorers with 27 in a 64-49 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Little Falls Flyers.
Along with the points, it was the three players' ability to handle the Flyers' suffocating defense. Known as one of the hardest-working and most intense teams in the conference, Little Falls didn't disappoint.
But Brainerd's guards did their part as Levno was 6 of 8 from the field. Tuchscherer was a perfect 10 of 10 from the foul line while Phillips was 7 of 13 from the field and 11 of 11 from the line.
"Defensively, we played well. We just need to be a little more patient with the ball when we can't run the floor," said Flyers coach Kevin Jordan. "We like to press and get our transition game going but we couldn't do that against (Brainerd) because their guards are so good.
"Brainerd is the only team we can't full-court press because their guards handle the pressure so well."
Levno and Tuchscherer built the momentum in the first quarter. Levno scored seven in the first frame and Tuchscherer added eight for a 19-12 first-quarter lead.
"Our senior guards do a tremendous job of recognizing pressure from the defense and putting us in a position to execute our offense," said Warriors coach Matt Urbanek. "The trio does a good job of handling the pressure and making the right decisions."
Little Falls made a game of it in the first half, outscoring Brainerd 11-6 in the second quarter to bring the game to 25-23 at halftime.
Then, Brainerd came out on fire in the third quarter. Phillips scored 14 of the Warriors' 16 third-quarter points and Brainerd's defense held Little Falls to 4 of 14 shooting to take a 41-32 lead.
"We were in the same situation with Sartell on Thursday," said Jordan. "We were down 25-23 and they went on a 15-point spurt. At least we held Brainerd to an 11-point lead.
"We need to make good decisions. We don't run our offense and we get some turnovers. We just need to stay in our game plan. We don't have one individual who is going to carry us."
Jordan Horejsi led Little Falls with 21 points. Jonathan Schulz, who averages 11.3 points, was held to seven.
Brainerd's 12-2 run to start the third quarter was the Flyers' undoing.
"We did a better job of attacking their defense," said Urbanek. "Their guards were really overplaying us outside so we started to penetrate, go to the basket and create some things through our offense.
"We did a good job executing in the third quarter."
Then, it was Brainerd's ability to hit free throws down the stretch that kept it ahead. The Warriors were 25 of 28 from the foul line. Aside from two late misses, Brainerd was 17 of 19 in the fourth quarter.
"That was one of the keys to our success," said Urbanek. "Free throws are an overlooked part of the game but they were key for us. Another key was our defense.
"Every time Brainerd and Little Falls play you can throw away the records because you know they're going to come out and play with a lot of intensity and they did. We were able to match it, though."
Little Falls 12 11 9 17 -- 49
Brainerd 19 6 16 23 -- 64
LITTLE FALLS (49)
Jordan Horejsi 21, Jonathan Schulz 7, Jason Thielen 1, Tony Parker 4, Matt Schilling 2, Tad Erickson 8, Travis Fedor 4, Chad Kofoed 2. Team totals: FG 19-50 (38 percent), FT 7-10 (70 percent). Conference -- 0-11. Overall -- 4-15. Next game: At Willmar 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Derek Levno 15, Paul Tuchscherer 16, Jake Phillips 27, Justin Mueller 2, Bryce Cloutier 2, Mike Brocker 2. Team totals: FG 18-44 (41 percent), FT 25-28 (89 percent). Conference -- 8-3. Overall -- 13-6. Next game: At St. Cloud Apollo 7:30 p.m. Friday.
3-point baskets -- B 3 (Phillips 2, Levno 1); LF 3 (Horejsi 1, Schulz 1, Erickson 1). Fouled out -- LF-Schulz.
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