The Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team needed an extra six inches per player in order to match up to a towering St. Cloud Apollo Eagles team.
Apollo used its height to hand the Warriors a 60-46 Central Lakes Conference loss Thursday.
Apollo's 6-foot-4 post Matt Nelson scored a team-high 15 points. Mark Kruse, a 6-5 forward, dropped in nine points, 6-4 backup post Ben Solheim added eight and Jonathan Williams, a 6-6 backup, scored four.
"They were about six inches taller than us at every position," said Warriors coach Matt Urbanek. "I thought our guys played real hard and aggressively. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to your opponent.
"Apollo did a very good job of exploiting mismatches. Our guys played hard, but we had a hard time matching up with their high-low game."
Apollo owned the second half. Leading by only two at halftime, the Eagles jumped to a 33-25 lead early in the third quarter.
At 3:58 of the third, Brainerd's Mike Zauhar nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled. He hit the free throw for the 4-point play to bring Brainerd within 36-31. Apollo finished off the quarter with a 12-7 run for a 48-38 lead.
"They hit a lot of outside shots in the second half and that hurt us," said Urbanek. "In the first half we did a pretty good job of sagging in and taking away their inside game. That kept us in the game.
"Then, when their shooters started making tough shots, we had to extend out and we couldn't cover the inside as well. They got a lot of offensive-rebound points and post opportunities."
Brainerd continued to struggle with Apollo's size in the fourth quarter as it shot just 3-of-14, including 0-7 behind the arc.
"We didn't run our offense as well in the second half," Urbanek said. "We forced some shots and I think that we didn't make them defend like we should have.
"We wanted to slow the game down, run our offense and look for good opportunities."
Jorgen Hartje led Brainerd with 15 points. Zauhar contributed 12 and Jake Phillips scored 8. Dusty Erickson added four points off the bench.
"(Apollo) did a good job of mixing up defenses," said Urbanek. "They played a lot of man and a lot of zone in both halves. They threw in a full-court man defense."
Last time the teams faced each other, Dec. 21, Apollo flew past the Warriors 59-37. It looked as if Brainerd might avenge the earlier loss as it stayed close for the first half.
Hartje scored 10 points in the first half. Brainerd's defense limited Apollo to just 9-for-23 (39 percent) shooting in that span.
"They were playing a lot more aggressive in the second half," said Erickson.
St. Cloud Apollo 7 15 16 8 -- 46
Brainerd 9 15 24 12 -- 60
ST. CLOUD APOLLO (60)
Brent Putz 12, Kris Gurda 5, Mark Kruse 9, B.J. King 2, Matt Nelson 15, Ben Solheim 8, Jonathan Williams 4, Ben Crawford 5. Team totals: FG 23-47 (49 percent), FT 7-12 (58 percent). Conference -- 6-4. Overall -- 13-7. Next game: vs. St. Cloud Cathedral 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Jake Phillips 8, Paul Tuchscherer 3, Mike Zauhar 12, Jorgen Hartje 15, Bryce Cloutier 2, Dustin Erickson 4, Fred Weiss 2. Team totals: FG 17-54 (31 percent), FT 7-9 (78 percent). Conference -- 3-7. Overall -- 8-11. Next game: at Alexandria 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
3-point baskets -- B 5 (Hartje 2, Zauhar 1, Phillips 1, Tuchscherer 1), SCA 7 (Putz 3, Kruse 2, Gurda 1, Crawford 1). Rebounds -- B 22 (Zauhar 7, Hartje 5). Turnovers -- B 12. Total fouls -- B 12, SCA 14. Assists -- B 11. Steals -- B 3. Blocks -- B 1.
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