Leading by 10 points early in the second half the Brainerd Warrior girls' basketball team appeared to be cruising toward an easy victory.
The Little Falls Flyers made it intriguing in the second half before Brainerd prevailed 49-46 in Central Lakes Conference play Tuesday.
Two free throws by Kayla Huether, who led all scorers with 20 points, with 27.8 seconds left, put Brainerd ahead 49-44. Two free throws by the Flyers' Kendra Hilmerson, with 18.9 seconds remaining, were the game's final points.
Then, it got feverish.
Brainerd post Karlye Barron (back) battled for a rebound with Melissa Monnier (left) and Kendra Hilmerson (15) in the second half Tuesday at Brainerd High School. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Following a timeout, Brainerd took the ball out under the Flyers' basket. Megan Bates passed laterally out of bounds to Huether, who fired a long pass to a sprinting Bates. The Warriors passed inside to Karlye Barron, whose shot was blocked.
"We tried to dump it down to Karlye, who had somebody on her," Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson said. "We probably should have just pulled the basketball out, but that's a decision we can't do anything about."
Little Falls rebounded and called time with 9.3 seconds to play. When play resumed the Flyers got across midcourt and called another timeout with 5.4 seconds left.
On the game's final play, the Flyers got the ball to Hilmerson, who scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half. Her three-point attempt hit the side of the rim as time elapsed.
"When you saw her sitting in the corner you knew she wasn't going to shoot from there," Hendrickson said. "It was a matter of where she was going. Usually, it comes to the top of the point. We didn't get through the pick, we didn't switch it, and she got a pretty good look. We were fortunate it went off the rim."
Warriors 49, Little Falls 46
The key: Kendra Hilmerson missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime
Conference: LF 6-7, Brd 9-4
Overall: LF 9-9, Brd 12-7
Next: Brainerd at St. Cloud Apollo 7:30 p.m. Friday
Flyers coach Justin Roberson said it was the last-second play Little Falls wanted.
"Kendra has won two games that way this year with that same play," he said. "We set it up, we got a good look, it was all we can do."
Brainerd triumphed despite getting outrebounded 36-34. The Warriors' Steph Neugebauer and Karlye Barron grappled with Little Falls' size, each grabbing 10 boards. Neugebauer added 10 points, Barron six.
The Flyers had numerous putback opportunities thanks to the inside work of 6-foot Elizabeth Schulz, who had 14 points and eight rebounds, and 5-9 Brittany Dobmeier, who had eight rebounds.
"This was probably the most physical team we played in I don't know how many weeks," Hendrickson said. "They have good size inside.
"Schulz is tough inside. She's really aggressive. She's pretty good when she gets the ball and goes left, and she's good around the basket. When she wasn't making it, Dobmeier, on the other side, was giving 'Neugie' fits. 'Neugie' had trouble a little bit there, keeping Dobmeier off the boards."
Had the Flyers made their free throws it would have been a different story. They sank just 6 of 16 in the second half, 6 of 20 the entire game.
"We shot only 30 percent from the free throw line," Roberson said. "If we shoot 50 percent we probably could have walked away with a win, but that's something we can change. We can get in the gym in the morning and we can shoot more in practice."
Trailing 16-15 in the first half, the Warriors scored 13 of the last 17 points to take a 28-20 lead at the intermission. Huether had 10 points in the half and Schulz paced the Flyers with eight.
Little Falls 20 26 - 46
Brainerd 28 21 - 49
Kendra Hilmerson 15, Alyssa Bassett 3, Melissa Monnier 5, Elizabeth Schulz 14, Brittany Dobmeier 4, Katherine Harms 2, Brittany Dorn 3. FG 18-52, FT 6-20. Three-point baskets: 4-15 (Hilmerson 2, Bassett, Dorn). Turnovers: 12.
Steph Neugebauer 10, Kayla Huether 20, Megan Bates 7, Stacey Butler 3, Karlye Barron 6, Emily Thesing 3. FG 20-59, FT 4-9. Three-point baskets: 5-13 (Huether 3, Bates, Thesing). Turnovers: 11.
MIKE BIALKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 855-5861.
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