The Brainerd Warriors girls' basketball team struggled on the offensive end, but blew away the Alexandria Cardinals 48-28 in Central Lakes Conference action Thursday.
Brainerd has struggled with its shooting in its last four games, two of which were losses. Brainerd shot just 38 percent from the field Thursday, but took 60 shots to Alexandria's 38 to improve its conference-leading record to 9-2.
"Coach has had us doing a lot of shooting in practice," said Brainerd center Amy Kittelson. "We're just trying to get our rhythm back. We kind of hit a shooting slump. He just told us to keep shooting, we did and they started falling finally."
Kittelson sparked the Warriors in the first quarter with six of her team-high 18 points. The senior scored the game's first points and Brainerd never trailed.
"For the last couple of games previous to this, we just didn't execute well on offense," said Brainerd coach Carl Hendrickson. "(Thursday) I thought we passed the ball very well. We got good shots and we hit a lot of the shots that we were missing previously."
Despite the cold shooting, Brainerd's defense was stifling. The Cardinals shot just 1-of-6 in the first quarter and 1-of-10 in the second. Alexandria made seven free throws to keep Brainerd's halftime lead below double digits (20-11).
"We're always playing full-court man defense and we just kind of wore them down," Kittelson said. "We kept a lot of pressure on the ball at all times. Our wings did a good job of that."
The 6-foot-1 Kittelson shot 9-of-16 from the field while Brainerd's other post player, Megan Arns, shot 5-of-12.
"We really didn't think too much about pounding the ball inside," said Hendrickson. "We just really wanted to execute our offense more than we have in the past. We were able to do that a number of times.
"We were able to swing it around the perimeter. Sometimes we were able to swing it two or three times to get good looks at the basket."
Kittelson helped spark a 7-0 run to start the second half. After a Joan Ebnet three-pointer, Cardinals coach Wendy Kohler called a timeout. That sparked Alexandria's Chelsea Hendricks who quickly scored two to make it a 27-13 game.
"A big key, especially in the first half, was putting the pressure on Hendricks and just making her work all the way up the court," said Hendrickson. "Sometimes we were doubling her just to make her work real hard to bring the ball up the court. With that we were able to take them out of their offensive rhythm."
Hendricks scored all nine of Alexandria's points in the third quarter.
Kittelson dropped in six more points and Ebnet added another three to help Brainerd outscore the Cardinals 16-9 in the third.
"They run a lot of cutters through the middle like we do," Hendrickson said. "Anytime the ball is away from you, we want to make sure that we have a lot of people in the paint and we did a good job of that. There just wasn't a lot for them inside."
With a 36-20 third-quarter lead, Brainerd cruised through the fourth quarter to pick up its second straight win.
Ebnet and Arns scored 10 points. Ebnet added seven assists. Arns collected 14 rebounds, six assists. The Warriors didn't attempt a free throw as Alexandria committed just four fouls.
Brainerd outrebounded the Cardinals 34 to 17.
"We had more size than they did," said Kittelson, who finished with seven rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals. "We used that to our advantage. We got position and we pulled down the rebounds."
Alexandria 6 5 9 8 -- 28
Brainerd 10 10 16 12 -- 48
Chelsea Hendricks 18, Erin Michaels 2, Olivia Rice 3, Michelle Hartmann 2, Christine Meyer 2, Diana Dykema 1. Team totals: FG 10-38 (26 percent), FT 7-13 (54 percent). Conference -- 3-8. Overall -- 9-12. Next game: at St. Cloud Apollo 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Joan Ebnet 10, Brooke Rollins 4, Megan Arns 10, Bekah Hewitt 4, Amy Kittelson 18, Katie Ahlberg 2. Team totals: FG 23-60 (38 percent), FT 0-0 (0 percent). Conference -- 9-2. Overall -- 13-4. Next game: at Grand Rapids 7:30 p.m. today.
3-point baskets -- B 2 (Ebnet 2), A 1 (Hendricks). Rebounds -- B 34 (Arns 14, Kittelson 7, Hewitt 7), A 17. Turnovers -- B 8, A 13. Total fouls -- B 10, A 4. Assists -- B 17 (Ebent 7, Arns 6, Rollins 4). Steals -- B 9 (Rollins 2, Kittelson 2). Blocks -- B 4 (Kittelson 4).
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